E/I Saturday Discussion: January 17, 2015; 11am
The artist in conversation with Gregory Volk art critic, freelance curator, and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University; and Marilyn Kushner Curator and Head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections at the New York Historical Society
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery is pleased to present Peggy Preheim’s twelfth solo exhibition with the gallery. Entitled Archipelago, this group of works presents the delicate drawings for which Preheim is best known in concert with the introduction of pressed floral elements in her work. These leaves, grasses and flowers inform the geometry of Preheim’s compositions and engage the artist’s drawings with thematic links to the natural world coupled with her ongoing interest in transformative processes and the repeated sequential nature of human experience and time.
The title of the exhibition, Archipelago, refers to a chain or cluster of islands with a significant portion of landscape under water and thus out of sight. As in Preheim’s drawings, what is seen of an archipelago from above are geographic nodes emerging from a vast expanse, with an intricate network of connections and references beneath. In these works by Preheim, the individual leaves and flowers are sometimes linked, each element’s position leading the eye through the compositional field. Alternately, the floral elements can be layered or arranged in a manner that gives shape to negative space and creates environments for the artist’s exquisite pencil drawings that are inspired by found photographs.
The interconnected nature of Preheim’s works extends beyond their formal elements to also include references to art and cultural history as well as phenomena of the natural world. In Femme de Chambre, a figure dressed in a wedding gown, and holding a knife, stands in the well of a three lobed leaf from the grape family. Weapon in hand, she carves through space just as the razor in Luis Bunuel's Un chien andalou cuts through the iris of an eyeball. Similarly, the radiating filaments of squirrel's hair in Omen hint at the iris of an eye as well. One of the initial pieces made for this series of work, the diptych 49 Degrees touches on the transformational power of the seasons, in which fall as the harbinger of winter marks a panoply of change: from our mode of dress, to the color of the landscape and (when read metaphorically) a shift in the cycle of life. As a counterpoint, the implied coming winter snow is explicitly portrayed in the heavy clustering of snow on the evergreen in the drawing entitled Masque. In the works Cardinal Sign and Fleur-de-lis, flame-like colors and shapes allude to fire, whose aftermath could render the ashes used in other works such as Torus, Elysium and Middle Man. For Preheim, works in the series connect with Joseph Beuys’ compositions with dried leaves and flowers on paper, illustrative of Beuys’ long-term interest in nature and the environment.
The incorporation of natural elements directly onto the surface of the paper highlights and contrasts the relationship between photosynthesis in plants and Preheim’s photographic style of drawing. As such, Preheim views these works as related to her continued exploration of “the process of transformation, both inner and outer.”
Peggy Preheim lives and works in New York. Her works on paper were recently featured in a group exhibition at the Drawing Center, New York. In 2008 Preheim was the subject of a one-person exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, entitled Little Black Book, which traveled between 2008-2010 to the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma and to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. A hardcover catalog was published in conjunction with the exhibition. Other notable exhibitions include Quiet Accord, a two-person presentation with Paul Chiappe at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin (2012), New Directions in American Drawing, a group show that opened at The Columbus Museum in Georgia in 2007 and traveled to the Telfair Museum in Savannah and the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee through 2008, and Transitional Objects: Contemporary Still Life, a 2006 group show at the Neuberger Museum in New York. Preheim's work is included in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, The Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.