Sarah Trigg: Territorial Expansion of the Innermost Continent
On ViewBlack Ball Projects
April 3 – May 26, 2019
Sarah Trigg’s small assemblages of aluminum, resin, acrylic, and other media, combine a painter’s command of color and surface with a sculptor’s penchant for innovative shapes and materials. These works are a good match with Black Ball Project’s intimate space, as we get to savor their varied textures, which range from a high gloss to coarse sand. They weave biological associations—cavities split open to reveal what looks like viscera, skin, bones, and vegetal shapes—with geologic ones—volcanic rock, geodes, and sedimentary rock formations. The press release compares the show to an archeological dig, a nice metaphor for the archetypal forms Trigg’s process brings to light. What she resurrects includes pieces she calls “deities,” totemic columns, and wall hangings, which look like shields or masks. Reminiscent of the animistic art of early societies and bolstered by their intense colors, surfaces, and shapes, Trigg’s work projects a presence not often found in contemporary abstract art.
Among her totemic pieces, Trigg has a series she calls Another Word for Chess, small columns anywhere from six inches to a foot high. This series emerged from a happy studio accident, when, after returning from a long trip, she found her acrylic paint had dried out in their jars. Particularly attractive is Untitled (Lapis) (2019), which has an intense blue capital supported by a clay column, separated with a light orange band. The capital has a crown of spongy tubes, which make it look like some undersea creature. More humanoid is Lovers (2019), a pairing of two columns slightly larger than the Another Word for Chess series. While Lovers lacks the brilliant hues of Lapis, it deploys more textures, smooth to rough, and surfaces, from glossy to matte. Taking a cue from its title, there is also something oddly affecting and slightly funny about the pair, the taller looking like a Williamsburg hipster sporting a pork pie hat.
Trigg’s Deity series is her most ambitious in terms of materials and content. The five works combine aluminum armatures with acrylics, epoxies, and clay. The basic format has a torso-like shell that looks as if it was cut open to reveal internal organs, either resting on a base or suspended on a crumpled aluminum rod. The aluminum rods, bent into a variety of loops and angles, provide a linear counterpoint to the chunks and slabs of clays and plastics. The palette is earth tones and greys, with occasional flashes of orange and yellow. Associations with classical antiquity readily come to mind. Deity of the Farthest Sphere (2019) resembles a recumbent Aphrodite, perhaps propped on one elbow. Of all the Deities, it best integrates the legato of the aluminum’s curves with the staccato of the tightly packed pieces of epoxy and dried acrylic paint that make up the mass nestled in the aluminum. However, in this work and its siblings in the series, the side that shows all the “guts” is much more interesting than the obverse that just shows the shell. Black Ball Projects would have done better to stage them against a wall rather than in the center of the room.
The pieces that hang on the wall obviously don’t suffer from this problem. That, and their adventurous surfaces and colors make them the most satisfying of the show. Embers Remembers All (2019) is a trapezoid of sienna-colored pumice stone larded with multicolored shards of dried paint. Limning the upper left angle are two lavender slabs that follow the contours of the top and sides. This faintly humorous detail gives the impression of an abstracted face in profile adorned with lavender locks. As with Lovers, Embers Remembers All simultaneously channels Surrealism and the art of early societies.
The eponymous palette of Earths in Torso (Green/Magenta) (2019)—another wall piece—is one of the most seductive in the show, and plays to Trigg’s strengths as a painter rather than a sculptor. A large patch of magenta in the upper right balances a swatch of celadon on the upper left. Crisscrossing up and down the surface are bands of bluish black and off-white. At the center are patches of sand colored paint with the same pumice texture as the ground of Embers Remembers All. The vivid colors of Earths in Torso, sparkling with their minute cracks and veins, add a decorative layer latent in most of the other works, which is a shame. Other artists have managed to author boldly colored artworks suspended between painting and sculpture without sacrificing their credibility, notably Elizabeth Murray. Maybe Trigg could turn up the volume next time? This writer would be all ears.