(Left to right): Marte Johnslien, Tubus Titan III, 2020, steel-reinforced ceramic with steel hooks, 199 x 32 x 46 cm.; and Andrea V. Wright, Precarious Conditions of Uncertainty V, 2021, deconstructed chair, steel, accreted latex, PVC, sheepskin, rubber, clips, paint, and thorns, 188 x 40 x 70 cm. Photo: Noad Da Costa, Courtesy FOLD and the artist



Fold Gallery

Spanning a myriad of sculptural fabrications, the works in “Drape,” a three-artist show on view through June 4, 2022, notate an irresistible journey of materiality, language, and context. The word “drape” can refer to the way that fabric hangs, designate curtains or a single-cloth garment, or describe the action of covering. Drill a little deeper, and it means “beating” in a now extinct Germanic language. So, this simple word concertinas out to embrace a broad range of possible meanings. In fact, in a medical context, it refers to maintaining a secluded, sterile field during surgery. This could easily describe how Fold Gallery’s (mostly) colorless walls create a dormant space around each work, though for viewers, one object inevitably crosses over the boundary of another.

Andrea V. Wright’s works bookend the exhibition, outlining an apt summary of the whole. At one end is an object that defies categorization and at the other is a composition of surfaces. It’s almost as if we are being warned: don’t define me, I am many and varied. At the foot of the entrance stairs, viewers are unexpectedly confronted with Precarious Conditions of Uncertainty V (2021), formed from a collection of whatever Wright could access during lockdown. The object slips in and out of being a horned beast, a bustled woman, and an assemblage of oddities, including a deconstructed chair and a pair of nasty thorns. It is a sculpture injected with invention and humor, delivered with an elegant handling of resources.

In a drastic about-face of materials, Marte Johnslien’s elongated ceramic tube (Tubus Titan III, 2020) hangs heavy and wonky on a nearby wall. Almost two meters high, it is held up by a horizontal metal post that pokes through its surface, mimicking how it was positioned when fired in the kiln. The hollow interior is evident, giving way to the mysterious intrigue of its making. Johnslien is interested in the use of titanium dioxide, the revolutionary material that produces the 20th-century’s bright, clean whites. Closely connected to the industrial history of her Norwegian homeland, titanium dioxide can be found in a huge variety of plastics and consumables, from textiles and cosmetics to food wrapping and medication. She muddies the whitest white pigment, creating a cracked, reptilian surface, accentuated by color variations resulting from her production process, which unites two otherwise incompatible materials—steel and clay.

Wright’s Precarious Conditions of Uncertainty I (2021), a decorative latex and plastic pearls piece feigning baby-blue innocence, forms a segue to Nour Jaouda’s multi-surface wall works, which include tasseled domestic adornments. Her collaged, cut-out canvases, dyed and pigmented, hover between craft, design, sculpture, and painting. Stretched across curved frames that borrow details from the architecture of Cairo, where they are made, they appear like animal hides, thus hinting at skin—though it’s tempting to skip from hide to hiding to privacy, considering that Jaouda’s works speak to the prayer mat: a deeply personal space of worship and reflection. A morsel of a larger, collective culture becomes embedded in these objects, which denote magical journeys and thresholds to cleanliness. Well placed at the end of Jaouda’s work, a densely imprinted cement tableau operates as a full stop to her statement of fragmented narrative.

Acting as another punctuation point in this long, narrow gallery, the last of Wright’s Precarious Conditions ends the exhibition. A composition of stitched, tucked, and clipped segments of leather, tassels, latex, and sheepskin hangs on a wooden frame that resembles a partial window. Another lockdown piece, it is like gear you need to go out, though you’re trapped inside. In this instance, in a gallery.

The multiple skins that compose “Drape” emphasize the fact that geographical boundaries and significantly different cultures have not inhibited the crossover of material concerns between the artists. They are all working to intimately understand the substance of their chosen matter. While one pushes against, another works with natural characteristics and behaviors. As one digs deep into the abstract, another hints at the figurative or the language of design. In this exhibition, sculpture is placed against its genre, draping itself around the walls.