A Living Narrative
by J. Fatima Martins
Installed in a shoebox-shaped gallery, “Sonograms” by Karen Margolis offers a dialogue about the hybridization of conceptual art, domestic craft, alternative abstract painting process, science, architecture and design. The installation is intellectually dense, yet appears physically delicate. In color and form it is joyful, elegant, light and airy, projecting the illusion of simplicity.
This “easy quality” is a smart conceptual trick, seducing the viewer into a complicated world that is psychologically probing and sly. For Margolis, the main concern is to achieve a type of evolving emotional minimalism and layered spatial fluidity. She remarked that one inspiration for the Sonogram space was Monet’s impressionistic Water Lily environments. What is missing — transitional and hidden in depths — is as important as what’s solid, permanent and visible. At her core, she is a conceptual artist who happens to make beautiful objects as transporters of questions and narrative.
The gallery space itself is important because it functions, metaphorically, as a type of nursery. Although Margolis
made it clear that she is not maternal, she did refer to her sculptures as “little children.” Around the perimeter are six mixed-media basket-like forms from the Wire Series; of different sizes and heights, some rest the floor while others are attached to the walls. They look like biological formations, land or underwater geological growths, or enormous microbes, bacterium and amoebas.
They are constructed of cotton-covered wire that has been hand-dyed and rolled into circular components that look like large rings or bracelets of various diameters. The circular components, or connectors, are built up as successive flat, irregular and curved areas into containers — or vessel sculptures — some empty, others containing bunches of raw wire. One sculpture, “Untitled,” 2015-16, which looks like a mushroom or floral growth, has a bloom of shredded paper maps projecting from the top. Maps are “like people,” Margolis said. “They contain information.”