Call with information is Suzanne McClelland’s current exhibition at Team Gallery in New York City. Her paintings seek to occupy the semiotic gap between representation and the represented, between a name and the thing itself. Her practice is born of extensive reading and listening, reflecting upon the resonances and overtones of words and numbers. Rather than limiting herself to the semantic and visual qualities of text, the artist examines language’s complex networks of aural and optic associations. Handwriting becomes a form of drawing, a means to explore the disparity between spoken and written language. Semi-legible letters and numbers curl and twist on the canvases, bringing to mind speech’s bodily genesis.
For this exhibition, the artist employs documents and information associated with American extremism as source material, turning her attention to domestic terrorists and hate groups. The contrast here – between the words and the extremely physical actions they describe – is pronouncedly stark. McClelland’s particular interest in these people – as opposed to other violent criminals – stems from their classification as domestic terrorists, nationals considered enemies of the state. This highly specific status derives from the ideological motivation of their crimes, leading to their designation as attacks on the nation itself, rather than its inhabitants, on a discursive construction, rather than a concretely extant populace.
FBI wanted posters of domestic terrorists provide the textual source material for one series of paintings. With these works, McClelland delivers an iconoclastic take on the genre of portraiture: bits of fragmented information – a height, an alias, an eye color, a crime – allow the viewer to put together an incomplete picture of an ultimately unavailable person. Here, text acts counter-intuitively as the indication of a void, the substantiation of an absence – language is used in a failed attempt to quantify the unmeasurable. Data endeavors to recreate the human but remains inadequate and superficial: these “portraits” are devoid of interiority, of the motivations that actually define their subjects in this context. The artist takes obscurity as a subject, using shrouding, the unavailability of information, to drive her painterly gesture.
Suzanne McClelland - Call with information
Team Gallery, February 22 - March 22