For Liste Art Fair Basel, Adams and Ollman will present a solo booth featuring American artist Mariel Capanna, the first comprehensive overview of the artist's work in Europe. The fair presents the latest voices in contemporary art and will be on view at Messe Basel from June 13–19, 2022.
Mariel Capanna explores the subtle relationships between memory, place, and perception through performative, reflexive painting. Working from direct observation of films, documentaries, and other moving imagery, Capanna indexes filmic moments using quick painterly marks and gestures, capturing fleeting images as they move on and off-screen and into the past.
The works on view at Liste, all 2022, were made while the artist watched documentation of festivals, parades, and other public celebrations. The paintings, rendered in a luminous palette of pale blues, pinks and yellows, take cues from the celebratory ritual and spectacle of these parades, the processional nature of which eschews a central focal point, instead offering a subject in flux and a simultaneity of ideas and objects that are represented together in a collapsed temporal frame.
Inspired not only by cinema and moving image, but also by medieval arma christi paintings, frescos, wall-writing, and corner store signage, Capanna blurs the distinction between representational imagery and more gestural abstraction. This conflation of imagery is conditioned, too, by Capanna’s method of working; instead of attempting to be faithful to the visual language of her source materials, she allows the films to play uninterrupted while painting, embracing both the ephemeral nature of the moving images and the limitations of her memory to create new and unpredictable compositions. The resulting paintings are not only a record of the artist’s observations, but also inevitably a record of what has been missed or gone unnoticed.
Nameable objects isolated from their original narrative—a shoe, a horn or a shadow—share space with the unnameable—gestural loops, confetti-like dots, glowing orbs, and dashes of color. In some paintings, the imagery is scattered across the panel in an overall composition; in others, objects fall to one side of the canvas or the other, or collect gently at the bottom like the soft flakes of a snowglobe, traces of a nameless celebration. Capanna’s paintings embrace a plurality of meaning that results from the limitations of perception. As the artist states, “With all of my paintings, I’m asking: when strung together, can a series of incomplete views, clunky translations, misremembered moments, flattened experiences, and oversimplifications yield something new that’s still meaningful in its own right?”
Mariel Capanna (b. 1988, Philadelphia, PA) received a BFA and Certificate of Fine Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA and an MFA from Yale University, New Haven, CT. She has been an artist in residence at the Guapamacátaro Art and Ecology Residency in Michoacan, MX; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Madison, ME; and at the Tacony Library and Arts Building (LAB), Philadelphia, PA. Capanna has also been the recipient of the Robert Schoelkopf Memorial Traveling Fellowship and an Independence Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship. She is currently a Fresco Instructor at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Mellon Post-MFA Fellow in Studio Art at Williams College, Williamstown, MA.
With All of my paintings, I’m asking: when strung together, can a series of incomplete views, clunky translations, misremembered moments, flattened experiences, and oversimplifications yield something new that’s still meaningful in its own right?
Mariel Capanna and Stella Zhong,
Stella Zhong: Taking objects from movies and pictures, do the stories remain with the objects you pick out? Does a painting become a collage of multiple parallel and intersecting narratives, which only you would probably know? Are they your secrets?
Mariel Capanna: My painting practice involves accepting that I am, as you put it, “always only seeing the partial picture;” accepting that if I’m focusing on one thing, then I’m necessarily failing to see everything else—or at least failing to see everything else in any kind of detail. My painting practice also involves accepting that I’m always only partially remembering that partially seen picture. The cartoonish quality that you identified is mostly the result of the limitations of my memory. When I’m watching a video I’ll see a pale blue bicycle and I’ll remind myself: “pale blue bicycle, pale blue bicycle”—but then when I reach out to paint it I’ll hardly remember the proper shape of a bicycle so I’m forced to simplify it. Or I’ll see a beautiful boot with a bit of sock sticking out and I’ll think “brown boot with yellow striped sock, brown boot with yellow striped sock” and then that’s what I’ll paint, but it will certainly have lost the particular charm and character of the brown boot that I first noticed and cared to paint. That can be dissatisfying in the moment—I’m often disappointed by or critical of that cartoonish quality—but then that brown boot in its simplified form will, in my painting, form some surprising relationship with, say, the simplified shape of the pale blue bicycle, and then I no longer crave for my painted brown boot to be a faithful rendering of that original idiosyncratic brown boot. With all of my paintings, I’m asking: when strung together, can a series of incomplete views, clunky translations, misremembered moments, flattened experiences, and oversimplifications yield something new that’s still meaningful in its own right?
SZ: Here's an annoying question for you: when do you know when a work is done!? Not something that I am particularly concerned with but curious if it's on your mind.
MC: When is a work done? I like that for you, distance, mystery, and a feeling of unknown are the signals. I tend to call a painting done when every mark and every zone has a role in relationship to all the others; when no part of the painting feels stranded, idle, isolated. Sometimes I aim to make a very sparse painting, and when it’s almost feeling finished I make a mark that throws everything off. Then I then need to make forty-two more moves in order for everything to work and by that point it’s a very cluttered painting and that’s just what it has to be. My paintings are additive and cumulative, and it’s difficult for me to remove things or edit back. Rewinding isn’t an option. So if I want a painting with ample negative space or open space, I need to build it up very cautiously.
–Read the full conversation here