Process matters to Analia Saban. It’s in the DNA of everything she creates, inseparable from the concept germinating a specific piece and embedded in larger, evolving bodies of work. It confounds in slabs of marble “folded” as if they were sheets of fabric or in liquid pigments congealed and then shaped into sculptural form. In each case, the new object happily relinquishes its claim to anything as precise as a painting, sculpture, or other familiar category. Saban’s recent exhibition, “Punched Card,” took woven form as its subject, spanning history from archaic weaving to Jacquard punch-card techniques, to binary digital imagery. Deconstructing and disrupting preconceived notions about weaving, historically diminished as “woman’s work,” she raises the bar to compete with the Minimalist ideologies of postmodern giants such as Barnett Newman and Sol LeWitt.
Five tapestries suspended from ceiling beams floated above the exhibition space. Fragile and transparent, they recall the intricate calligraphic and abstract designs of ancient silk carpets, though Saban’s works are derived from the configurations of computer circuit boards. More than happenstance, the kindred spirits of ancient hand-crafted designs and today’s digitally determined patterns suggest a cosmic plaiting of the universe—a metaphysical mystery that finds an echo in five large, black paintings from Saban’s “Pleated Ink” series.
Each of these ink-based works corresponds by title and design with a specific tapestry, and each set of works references the circuitry of a specific technology company: Pleated Ink (Computer Chip, TMS 1000, Texas Instruments, 1974) (2018), for example, replicates the design of Tapestry (Computer Chip, TMS 1000, Texas Instruments, 1974) (2018); both works are linked to a specific circuit-board pattern used in the 1970s by semi-conductor company Texas Instruments. Saban produces strikingly different results by subjecting this pattern to two very different processes. The warp and weft of her tapestries consist of dried strands of black acrylic pigment and thin threads of light beige linen. The “Pleated Ink” works, which engage the eye like Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings, similarly reward the patient gaze with submerged formal narratives—a surprising display of lines, shapes, lights, and darks that optically emerge from seeming voids. As the viewer moves closer, the plot literally thickens to reveal these works to be not at all flat or painted, but cast as sculptural abstractions set in a rich, thick sludge of printers’ ink.
Saban creates these works by using a laser-cutting machine to replicate the precise designs of a circuit board on sheets of paper. The remnants of the paper, which correspond to the tapestry patterns, are pressed into a thick reservoir of ink, creating networks of three-dimensional filigree mazes. Thus, both the tapestries and black ink works commandeer the natural fluidity of their underlying media—the woven works feature molded strips of dried acrylic paint; the “pleated” works, requiring months for the printers’ ink to harden, transform liquid into a sculptural surface. Reinventing the same algorithmic design through these labor-intensive processes produces vastly contrasting psychological effects: the tapestries are light, airy, and ephemeral; the ink works dense, crowded, and mysterious.
Additional orchestrations exploring the fluidity of process and its impact on visual form emerge in another group of works. For Magnetic Core Memory Structure #3 (2018), Saban created a loom from a walnut frame and filled its center with strips of hardened acrylic paint woven through linen threads, thereby confounding traditional definitions of weaving and painting. And then, in Transcending Woven Vertical Line (Black) (2018), with a humorous nod to Barnett Newman, Saban wove a single acrylic “thread” through a linen canvas “drawing,” with the hardened paint strip acting as a straight “zip” line that dangles from the bottom edge of the surface like a solidified drip. In Flare Up #1 (2018), tiny black beads of pigment seemingly dispersed expressionistically on linen are actually clots of acrylic paint seeping through linen pressed tight against a pigment-drenched board beneath a fabric canvas—figure and ground effectively trading places.
Little in Saban’s world obeys a formal set of rules. Yet as she juggles the stuff of art according to her own impulses, she evolves the DNA of fine art as the vehicle for re-presenting—all in the process of making wondrous, mysterious, unpredictable, and yes, constant works.