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July 28 - August 20, 2017

Michael Benedetti & Conor McGrann – "Reflections on Flatland"

Printmaking, Installation, Architecture
Frable Gallery

Opening Reception for the Artists
Friday, July 28, 2017
7:00-10:00 pm
Free and Open to the Public

Closing Artist Talk
Sunday, August 20, 2017
2:00 pm
Free and Open to the Public

Reflections on Flatland is a collaborative exhibition between two printmaking artists, Michael Benedetti and Conor McGrann. The aim of this exhibition is to explore the macro and micro of the space that surrounds us - the objects, rooms, buildings, streets, and cities that govern our daily activity as well as the cognitive and physical dimensions that humanity inhabits. Published in 1884, Edwin A. Abbo's Flatland was written as a societal commentary on Victorian hierarchy as well as a philosophical commentary about the possibility of multiple dimensions and mankind's understanding of life. Having little effect on society at the time of publication, Flatland has evolved into an influential text, especially among artists and philosophers. Using a fictional narrative, Abbot's Flatland proposes a two-dimensional society that is structured around the inhabitants who exist as flat geometric shapes and lines within a caste system where each member of a particular caste looks exactly the same. Abbot's approach is a fascinating theory on how we interpret the world around us and the constructs that we establish in order to regulate and dictate our interaction with other members of society.

Michael Benedetti focuses on perceived space and design. Measuring rooms and using architectural floor plans as inspiration, Michael abstracts this information in order to create geometric forms whose existence is dictated by the spaces that he inhabits. Conor McGrann's work explores represented space through abstracted views of urban areas, real and fictional. Biking through neighborhoods, McGrann creates his own interpretations of city maps based on personal experiences with the buildings and inhabitants of the different communities he visits.

Influenced by Flatland's use of geometric representation, Reflections on Flatland will focus on Benedetti and McGrann's geometric interpretation of the world that surrounds them. The beauty of a creased map or a perfectly folded cardboard box or the red-brick facade of a dilapidated packaging warehouse, these things are important. How we view these objects and interact with them is important as well. Having both grown up in the industrial setting of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the artists are familiar with how architecture plays an important role in a culture's evolution. The work for the exhibition will emphasize this importance of architecture and how the geometric objects and structures we continue to surround ourselves with have personalities of their own and affect how we perceive the world around us.

The artwork within the exhibition will provide an example of how two-dimensional imagery and the multiple can impact three-dimensional artwork. Creating a city plan on the floor of the Helena Davis Gallery, the buildings, streets, and rivers of this city will be composed of abstract geometric paper sculptures as well as stacked prints. These forms will involve screenprinted and wood-block printed shapes that will define the personality of each structure. The stacked prints will question the use of printmaking in sculptural works by utilizing the multiple to create single objects, or in this case "buildings." The prints within the cityscape of the exhibition will pile up to represent structures, both hollow and solid, organic and man-made. Similar to Felix Gonzalez-Torres's stacks of posters and printed paper, viewers will be encouraged to take a print from the piles, transforming them from spectator to contributor.

The floor installation will be surrounded by multiple framed prints hung on the walls with space along the edges of the room for individuals to walk. The framed pieces will include individual prints from each of the artists as well as a series of collaborative prints between Benedetti and McGrann. These images will serve as portraits by representing the geometric inhabitants of the cityscape, the structures that dictate the city's shape and size. The imagery of the printed works will provide insight into the "building blocks" used to construct the city as well as the unique objects and shapes that are created through the artists' perception of architecture and city planning.

Both the framed work on the walls as well as the paper structures on the floor will use printmaking as their primary medium. Printmaking's versatility will play a large role in how the exhibition is experienced. The processes that create the two-dimensional work on the walls will be recognized as the same processes used to create the three-dimensional sculptures on the floor. This acknowledgement will create a discernible language between the viewer and the work. Therefore inviting the viewer into the world created within the exhibition.

For Reflections on Flatland, Benedetti and McGrann aim to explore some of the ideals expressed within Abbot's narrative as well as promote the versatility of printmaking through its incorporation in a room-sized installation. The cityscape on the floor will provide walking room for members of the Artspace community to wander in between the buildings and view the city as a representation of the spaces, objects, and structures that inspire the artists and inform their work.

Michael Benedetti - Artist Statement

My work focuses on identity and the abstraction of memory and emotion through the use of architecture, modularity, and systematic image creation. Research is defined by the tactile and ephemeral elements that inform life, providing two very distinct approaches to the creation of artwork - geometry and memory, objectivity and subjectivity.

Within my practice, I construct systems that exist as self-sustaining organisms that recycle primary components in order to feed future artworks. Once an idea is executed, these components (form, color, material) are reinserted into the system and the process repeats, constantly creating variations of the initial image in order to visually present the growth of an idea through serial artworks.

Drawing is a key initiator of action within a system. In order to further the progression of an idea, I utilize the processes and materials inherent within printmaking in order to bridge the gap between two-dimensional mark making and three-dimensional sculptural objects.

My current research investigates how the spaces we inhabit participate in the formation of an identity. This is explored through two related bodies of work, B19 and The Architecture of Memory. Works in these series examine my surroundings and personal history concerning rooms and architectural interiors that I have inhabited spanning from my childhood home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the apartment I lived in as a graduate student in Athens, Georgia, apartment B19.

In both series, I obsessively investigate my dwellings through the years, creating data in the form of lists of numbers and objects to replace my physical self. Floor plans are created from memory and objectively describe the physical surroundings through the use of architectural rendering and basic geometric shapes. A foundation is laid that provides recreated spaces which will ultimately affect the memories that begin to inhabit these rooms, questioning the accuracy of memory and how that informs an understanding of my past.

Conor McGrann - Artist Statement

My artwork explores the complex relationship between geography and culture, which emerges most vividly in the form of mapped spaces. In particular, I examine the co-evolution of space and community through time, revealing tension between the built and natural environments. At a time when individuals are increasingly reliant on sophisticated locative devices (iPhones, GPS systems), my work attempts to decontextualize space in terms of personal experience.

As a Pittsburgh native, I'm especially drawn to the way that geography asserts itself despite car- oriented urban development. Due to its hills and rivers, Pittsburgh could not be retrofitted to accommodate the high-speed highway infrastructure in the same way most other American cities were, allowing it to hold on to much of its regional culture while rejecting an omnipresent suburban monoculture.

My work comprises historical and contemporary maps, as well as my own drawings, layered and abstracted to convey the content for societal interaction. Through shapes and patterns, I explore both real and fictional places.

I work mostly with hand-printed media presented in both traditional framed wall pieces and in site-specific installations. The wall pieces mimic the scale of traditional maps, often in the form of diptychs and triptychs, thereby referencing the folds of a handheld map. In my installations, the physical (geographical) constraints of the space itself dictate how I place my prints in order to develop a mapped environment. In both bodies of work, my subjective experience is necessarily imposed on real and imaginary environments. These personal, unsanitized productions attempt to entice viewers to reconsider their everyday perceptions of urban space.
More at conormcgrann.com

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Page Updated June 18, 2017