Design for Living
Exhibition closed: April 3, 2021
InLiquid is pleased to present Design for Living, a two-person exhibition of Philadelphia artists and longtime friends, Mary Henderson and Sarah Zwerling. The exhibition features bodies of work the artists began prior to 2020, which they have reworked and recontextualized in response to the events of the last year. Using very different media, Henderson (a painter) and Zwerling (a digital artist and sculptor), both explore themes of isolation and connectivity.
Although Henderson’s imagery includes only figures, while Zwerling’s consists exclusively of landscapes and architectural details, the formal similarities in their work are sometimes striking. Responding to the format made ubiquitous by Instagram, Henderson and Zwerling both work within squares, presenting their subjects out of context and contrasting passages of great complexity with large expanses of negative shape. Both artists are interested in the idea of visual pathmaking, using overlapping and repeating shapes to navigate through complex formations of figures and natural structures.
During the last year, the theme of pathmaking has taken on additional metaphorical resonance. Finding throughlines and connectivity in the accumulation of small moments, moving through complicated spaces step by step, and seeking out repetition, patterns and cycles have become not just artistic strategies but also means for survival.
Mary Henderson makes group portraits that explore the subject of collective identity. Shown in an unguarded moment of vulnerability and reflection, the subjects of the paintings exist in a state of suspension between individual and collective identity. Henderson is interested in the ways people communicate shared identity in the absence of clear markers, and in competing theories of the crowd (as unified organism versus an aggregate of individuals). How do individual gestures, amplified through proximity and repetition, present as a collective, physical force, and what causes us to interpret these shared movements as either threatening or benign?
Although the events of the last year — including both the pandemic and the explosion of mass protest around issues of racial and criminal justice — have recontextualized the work, Henderson’s primary thematic concerns remain the same: group allegiance, power, and the public vs. private self. The work is intended to be neither critical nor celebratory. The paintings that are mostly about joyful solidarity are often tinged with unease. At the same time, Henderson wants the paintings to feel humane, it is important to Henderson that, even in a moment when group activity feels distant and dangerous, the work is still able to consider the radical possibilities of pleasure and collective effervescence — to temper discomfort with hope.
Sarah Zwerling’s large digital prints are made by stitching together multiple photographs into one seamless image. By combining large numbers of source photos on the computer, she is able to create images with the highest resolution throughout, with each layer shown in equal focus. Isolating forms from their environment and placing them against a dark background, she removes them from “real” space, drawing attention to the connectivity and flow between natural shapes.
For Zwerling, the image itself is not important; it’s the experience: the work captures an emotion, rather than a specific location or moment in time. The continuity of focus in the prints, along with their large scale, creates an immersive experience, similar to an installation, in which the viewer is invited to enter into the image and become enveloped in a chromatic landscape. Every detail is given equal importance, allowing the viewer to experience tiny moments differently every time.
Design for Living: Virtual Tour