ArtLego artist Gelah Penn (USA) expands our understanding of what a drawing might be. In her site-responsive installations and works on paper she research the relationship between past and present, trying to capture and convey a narrative in abstraction. Her installations occupy space, sometimes quite aggressively, redefines the architectural lines of a room, leaving a feeling of anxiety in the viewer.
“PLACE: Monumental Drawings” by Penn is on display at Equity Gallery, 245 Broome St., NYC, through June 18.
Penn has a profound interest in film, especially film noir. All the installation titles at Equity Gallery are taken from films—Clash By Night, Shadow of a Doubt, Detour, etc. Penn thinks her fascination is rooted in the nature of shadow, both metaphorical and actual. The backstory being that her parents were Holocaust survivors. Still, she hesitates to say that her works reflect that. But the Jewish pogroms have an impact, obviously. It’s the disquieting and sometimes chaotic background noise for much of how she thinks and approaches a subject. There has to be light as well as shadow, she sais, and hope that her seductive materials – like optical plastic and mylar – draw the viewer in and keep her looking for a while.
The artist’s works are manipulations of almost ephemeral synthetic materials (plastic garbage bags, mosquito netting, monofilament). She stretches, knots and tear throughout whatever space they inhabit. These actions allow her to understand and come to grips with the architectural parameters of a given site.
Her drawings are sculptural. These two facets of her work—drawing and installation—are continuing to come in closer proximity to each other.