August 23 – October 15, 2017
Andrea Guskin is a San Francisco Bay Area artist who was raised amongst the woods and college campuses of Wisconsin and Ohio. She began drawing by pillaging her father’s office supply closet for fine-tip pens and yellow pads, filling them with costumed figures.After studying painting at Antioch College in Ohio, Andrea moved toward abstraction and diversified materials. In the early 1990s, her show “What is Intimacy?” at Antioch’s Reed Gallery included sculptural pieces mounted on wood, as well as fabric, clay, and works on metal. Andrea then moved to New York City and became a part of the artist community on the Lower East Side. She exhibited her work in non-profit spaces around the city.
After relocating to the Bay Area, Andrea began working in tape and thread, exhibiting in alternative spaces and galleries, including Four Walls in San Francisco and Swarm Gallery in Oakland. In the series “Attach Here,” created during the foreclosure crisis, Andrea addresses themes related to home and loss. The pieces of tape are used like bricks, ripped apart in small pieces and rebuilt into the lines of broken architectural abstractions.
Her most recent work looks at home through a more personal and ancestral lens, incorporating vintage family images and photography, and exploring the layers of emotional experience related to domestic life, ancestry, and the fragility of existence. She takes inspiration from Lee Bontecou’s use of absence and Christian Boltanski’s method of combining found historical photography and installation. Beginning in 2016, her work became more expansive: Thread and photographs have moved outside two dimensions and become an entire system of timelines, small abstractions, and tiny everyday household objects.
This work is a contemplation of time, ancestry, and refuge through the lens of an ordinary bloodline. Within the work, I map time using predominantly ordinary domestic objects that are pushed and stretched out of their usual context. These tiny things are the connectors: thread, burnt matches, pieces of cotton, rubber bands, objects so ever-present as to go unnoticed, existing in homes around the world.As it is true for many immigrant Jewish families, the historical records and documents of my family were mostly destroyed in countries I will most likely never see. Fragments of history floating through the air, some known but others just theories — a great-grandfather falling down into a clay mine, maybe losing all his teeth; an uncle who may have tried to kill a Russian czar in his carriage; the possibility of a secret library of socialist books.
This leads me to the question: what unknown elements of our family history do we carry with us in our bodies and minds?
There’s a 1930s photograph I found in my aunt’s garage, in which some of my relatives from Eastern Europe squeeze together one night under what appears to be an outdoor tent. It was most likely on one of the first nights of Passover; they are all in good spirits, finding refuge in each other’s company. Somehow the light in that tent creates the illusion that many of the faces are just a reference to a face, a vague outline. I know a few of their names, but they are hard to identify. Obsessed with the quality of this photograph, I have transferred their faces hundreds of times now, wondering about their lives as I move them onto paper, wood, and now onto cotton rounds—the kind one might use to clean one’s face, usually when alone, while looking at oneself, at night.
I am collecting, re-imagining and mapping the blurred parts of family history, perhaps lost by time and movement across oceans that are contained somewhere in our individual mental states, our own personal temporary collection.
Elena Mencarelli moved to San Francisco after concluding her Master Degree in Visual Arts at the University of Bologna, Italy. Previously, she was the artistic director of the Make Your Mark Art Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to her artistic practice and curatorial background, she is also engaged in art criticism. Elena is the co-writer of the catalogue of the double exhibition Maria Rebecca Ballestra – Alan Sonfist, a better landscape (Unimedia Modern Contemporary Art, Genova, Italy) and is the author of Maria Rebecca Ballestra, a phenomenology of posthumanism, soon to be published in both Italian and English.