Art Columnist Archie Gibbs reviews The Modern Institute in Glasgow’s autumn programme.
The Modern Institute reopened with two separate shows from New York based artists, Anne Collier and Julia Chiang, respectively. Rejoicing at the opportunity to finally visit a gallery in person for art existing outside of my laptop, I headed down to see the concurrent exhibitions on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The Aird Lane location is home to the Collier show - the artist’s third solo with the gallery - a self-titled exhibition displaying connotations of the series Woman Crying (Comic), Tear (Comic), and her newer Filter series. With the appropriated image an eminent fixture in Collier practice, this show keeps on brand, predominantly circling around the motif of women crying with close ups of the tearing eye. Collier’s show thrusts the viewer into her visually challenging world and asks us what it means to decontextualise imagery. Through manipulation of familiar iconography found in classic 1950s cartoons, Collier confronts the predisposed reaction of passive sympathy, ultimately addressing the frankly uncomfortable ubiquity of the suffering of women which is often glazed over. Collier’s work highlights the blatantly skewed construction and bias in core components of the maturation of young women, perpetuating a problematic mythology.
The new series entitled Filter takes centre stage in the show. A six-panel frieze, Filter, illuminates the facsimile image of the crying woman in a range of colour filters on the Ben-Day dot illustration technique popularised in these comics. The morbid enlargement shows clear self-reflection through the use of grainy paper and the incomplete editing process of the images, creating a dissociation from the romantic comic setting, towards the rather cold corporeality of an anonymous woman crying. The work exists within the operation of the Kodak Colour Print Viewing Filter Kit, a nod to the pre-digitised, pre-photoshop era of editing images. In a rather Barthesian ilk Collier renders her manipulation process of images evident for all to see, provoking further thought of the processes enacted behind most imagery in the media. There is also a contemporary reference here; Filter parallels today’s infatuation with Instagram filters and what they mean for representation, especially among young women.
Alongside the Anne Collier show, TMI’s main location on Osborne Street houses Julia Chiang’s second show with the gallery: Holding My Breath Moving Closer Closer. Featuring a total of 52 works which were all made during lockdown, Chiang offers the viewer a window into both her studio and something deeper and more meaningful. The works all consist of similar forms and motifs - the pointed ellipses feature conspicuously throughout - yet each provides a different harmonious balance and unbalance. The uniformity of the works and clean cut aesthetic is quickly disparaged after close inspection; the shapes overlap and collide while constructing a real narrative of directional force and an undeniable, unchangeable flowing energy.
An initial sense of the celestial comes across when walking into Chiang’s show. With the sun shining through the skylights and large windows, her work is somewhat reverent at first against the ethereal backdrop. However, any idea that these are plainly decorative objectively pretty works disappears, once the seriality and repetitive effect comes into play, after spending a few minutes in the space. I get the impression of an artist working through clashing and symbiotic forces, a disjointed biology seeking homeostasis. The more organic, curvilinear forms divide the field of pointed ellipses and it is much more than just a geometric composition. These works can be translated into the register of human relationships, emotions, physicality and environments.
Both shows are still available for viewing on the Modern Institute website with a gallery walk through and press release statement of the work for each.