Opening: June 3, 2022 4-6pm
Vielmetter Los Angeles is thrilled to announce our fifth solo exhibition with Los Angeles-based artist, Stanya Kahn. Forest for the Trees is a multi-disciplinary exhibition teeming with paintings, ceramic works, bronzes, animations and found materials from the natural world. Best known for her films and video works, which have been presented at MoMA PS1, the New Museum, and the Wexner Center among many other institutions, Kahn made Forest for the Trees during the first two years of the pandemic.
Solo animals gaze out from vibrant landscapes painted in oil on linen and canvas. Portraits of the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker, the tragically slain silver-back gorilla, Harambe, and a coyote who took up residence in Kahn’s yard join uncanny, imagined beings in fantastic landscapes, all of them seeming to inhabit spaces that are both literally and figuratively unreachable by people. Many of the paintings are framed with planks of old-growth redwood the artist pulled from the walls of her studio—a row of garages built in 1909. Kahn planed and sanded the wood herself and collaborated with the gallery’s framer to design custom deep-profile frames akin to window boxes. The upcycled frames also hold ceramic snakes, skulls, and other organisms, creating dioramic mise en scènes. Other ceramic and bronze figures rest on logs, including sections of a century-old incense cedar that died from drought in the artist’s yard. In addition to the figures, there are wheel-thrown forms and vessels also made of porcelain and other high-fire clay bodies, their shapes and carved surfaces inspired by both ancient pottery from around the world as well as that of the American Midwest in the early 20th century. As markers of history and human intervention, many of the vessels here are glazed to resemble artifacts, others are closed entirely, without utility.
Two new digital animations made from photographs of the artist’s paintings depict mutated animals in inhospitable environments.
Forest for the Trees offers respite from society, while implicating it and us. Working in proximity to personal and collective traumas, Kahn created alternate worlds in isolation, desperate for an elsewhere and inspired by the possibilities offered by fiery mass uprisings for freedom. With this show, Kahn draws out the long threads of distress and resilience present throughout her oeuvre, albeit in entirely new physical and material explorations. This new body of work flows from the trajectory of Kahn’s most recent film, No Go Backs (2020), a visceral and visually lush film shot on 16mm in the Eastern Sierras, in which teens escape unnamed manmade catastrophe, barely prepared, riding out of the city and into the wild. In both No Go Backs and Forest for the Trees, Kahn explores the natural world as a site of critical reflection; narrative and language are de-emphasized; a deepening of one’s relationship to the land and a retreat from humanity as we know it invite both disorientation and vision.