October 2014: Crystal Gregory | Luke Ahern

In Blog, Photography, Reviews By by Ken Aschliman On November 25, 2014


As one walks about Crystal Gregory’s show, space and weight flip with ominous tension. How Many of Those Yoked Have Ever Seen Oxen displays the crippling heaviness of concrete weightlessly floating in the air by fine orange lace. In contrast, Gregory directs the viewer’s attention to the disjunctive or alternative possibility of a material’s capability. With the work’s tangling poetic completion, perforated negative space and rich “construction site” orange present a welcoming aesthetic. Her aesthetic choices are fundamental in balancing the absurdity of light concrete and strong lace.



Displaying the same motives as How Many, Gregory’s installation Negative Space as Form is made of a three-foot rectangular steel frame, which is composed of small triangles (an architectural feat that would turn Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in his grave). It sits on top of a light tan construction board and has seven blue cyanotype canvases leaning against the wall behind it. The effect of looking through the steel structure is similar in effect to what one sees in nature, when geometric forms are disaggregated into the wild maturation of organic fluidity. The blue cyanotypes look like an assemblage of odd patterns. A viewer may meditate upon the geometry in nature—on a structure’s eventual breakdown into magnificent patterning and disorder.



Gregory’s themes of architectural gender systems are found in construction sites; she develops this language of the same material language: concrete, latex and rope. This is best illustrated by the display of a photograph in Smith and 9th. The work juxtaposes a pink lace weave held in a steel frame beside a photograph of a construction site. The subtly woven lace mimics the criss-crossing of the architectural photograph. Her imaginative and creative approach in demonstrating augmented systems of structure is approached in a similar way to the French theorist Guston Bachelard in his book The Poetics of Space: “Imagination augments the values of reality” (p. 4). She imagines then creates a language, through the less familiar materials of concrete, lace, cyanotypes and latex, to come to realities about systems of masculinity in society.


How Many is one standout work in Gregory’s show. It demonstrates through personal investigation motives that engender the viewer to think about alternative possibilities. She flips the systems of architectural materials and intimately distorts the framework of materials, inverting the systems of masculine space (concrete) and feminine space (lace). The divide between object sexuality is a cultural assumption bestowed and purported on the pretense that an object has symbolic value prescribed in its material. A prescription that is ostensibly based on the assumption that strong is firm and that pliability is feeble, frail and delicate. After witnessing Gregory’s show, the world of architecture begins to tilt. Concrete becomes aqueous, and lace becomes sturdy.  



Luke Ahern makes use of unconventional material that are foreign to a classically trained artist. In Kooks on Parade he uses astroturf, a material only previously seen to grace the floor of indoor soccer stadiums. The turf is displayed as rough cut triangles that are positioned geometrically onto the gallery wall. The astroturf takes on a life of its own. Its position on the wall and its shape help the object be valued for its inherent beauty of textures and of artificialness. Ahern’s work is free to be interpreted; he develops language relationships that speak through an emotional essence. His emotions synthesize with the the viewers’ interpretations.



Tune In is a two-dimensional painting with neon greens and pinks which rival neutral browns of the same tone. The painting has bold transitions between colors and values that resemble a scrape-like texture of the eroded Adirondack Mountains. Together, Ahern’s work exhibits the extensive duration of process. The layering, reducing and covering up of paint characterizes his interminable process. Ahern may spend years altering and manipulating individual works.



Played Out, which is made up of seventeen carpet circles that are spray-painted and connected by electrical tape, resembles a silly Twister game. Ahern continuously rearranges his work and may not display it in this arrangement again; the work may be later altered in color or used in a completely different installation. To the viewer the work is ostensibly complete, but it remains underlyingly malleable to its creator. One will see a work change an uncountable amount of times, from one gallery show to the next. His process is a constant experience for the viewer, who has unremitting involvement in the work.



A particular highlight in the show is Pie Eyed. This sculpture, which was once a Christmas tree, leans upside down on the gallery wall. It is has a captivating color palette of high key yellows, reds and blues. The colors are prominently synthetic and are half-matt in sheen. Pie Eyed is a work of art that directs the interest of the viewer in its complete absurdity, having a similar appearance to a tree in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The tree’s absurd color disrupts the natural world, and the strange teetering effect caused by its upended state and cut branches make one feel sympathy and neglect for the once Christmas tree. Ahern is concerned with the spontaneity of a work, and he is interested in the evolution, rather than the completion, of a work. Apparent through his long and enduring process, he underlines the time it takes for a work to develop, withdrawing from the stagnated confines of completed terms, love and hate. His process of continuous experience is in effect what the theorist John Dewey outlines in Art as Experience: “In its beginning an emotion flies straight to its object. Love tends to cherish the loved object as hate tends to destroy the thing hated. Either emotion may be turned aside from its direct end.”


Ahern’s show exemplifies his process of expressing continuous novelty. One single work becomes an imaginative and personal evolution—novel in it’s adaptation with its environment. Ahern embodies his life in his work. The artist and the artwork exist, cohabit and evolve together.


By Jacob Holler