Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / While a degree of pandemic fatigue is understandable, there’s no denying that lockdown was an extraordinary fact of daily life whose ripple effects have far from dissipated. And insofar as it left artists with more time to think and work, it has yielded an abundance of resonant art. Jillian McDonald’s and Kate Teale’s drawings, now on view at Undercurrent Gallery in Dumbo, are sterling examples. The gallery itself, with a long, wide ramp sloping from the street entrance down to the main underground space, is well-suited to the work of both artists – friends and occasional collaborators who discovered they were independently exploring the themes of confinement, immersion, and ultimately release.
Teale’s mostly site-specific graphite drawings, composed with hard-edge precision and utilizing the grip of Tyvek, conjure clandestine or at least unobtrusive means of disappearance of various kinds: funnels, escape hatches big and small, holes in the ground, pools that are dangerous or merely tempting. Her touch is at once aggressive and deft, achieving both consistent denseness and differential shading that impart to her ominous apertures something approaching discretion. An encounter with these still, opaque, and presumptively inorganic phenomena feels disconcertingly, galvanizingly interactive and dynamic.
McDonald taps into the notion of submergence with a series of exquisite yet eerily freighted, imaginatively referential drawings: Deep Breath, Deep Dive, Deep Fear, Deep Web, Deep Wound, and Deep Threat. Especially granular are the latter two, which seem like rough visual and conceptual inverses, the wound having surfaced and erupted and the threat remaining subterranean but kinetic. The other four, and two additional drawings titled Dark Current and Dark Side, also respectively form implicit tandems. Arching over these pairings is Animals on the Verge. Those might be us, poised for irresistible transition and worried about how we might suffer in the process.
Though perhaps sourced in the claustrophobia of involuntary isolation, these works are paradoxically expansive, referencing the compulsion to confront emergent threats – political, environmental, biological – as well as to protect against them. For every suggestion of consternation, say McDonald’s “fear” or Teale’s “escape,” there is an exhortation of liberation, like Teale’s “plunge” or McDonald’s “dive.” This poignantly discerning exhibition is as much about moving forward as taking refuge.
“Jillian McDonald + Kate Teale: HOLE,” Undercurrent Gallery, 70 John Street, Brooklyn, NY. Through August 21, 2022.