Essay By Maya Allison
Curatorial Assistant, Department of Contemporary Art,
The RISD Museum
The words that come to mind when looking at Allison Paschke’s sculpture usually describe light -- reflected, filtered, scattered, glowing, or refracted. When I first saw Thekla III, I was struck by the way it absorbed and transmitted ambient light, like a glowing, living honeycomb. The materiality of her sculptures distinguishes them from the tradition of Los Angeles "Light and Space" artists such as James Turrell, who use light as both subject and medium. Paschke captures light primarily in translucent porcelain and epoxy resin, creating a seemingly endless variety of luminous boxes, grids, and screens. These materials provide a delicate, ephemeral quality that belies the sculptures’ permanence.
Paschke started out as a ceramist. Her earliest boxes consist of thin porcelain squares joined together to shape a cube. Although they look nothing like traditional porcelains, the delicate, totem-like character of her abstract forms often still function on the level of the figurine, suggesting entire worlds in the space of a few cubic inches.
The surfaces of Paschke’s sculptures are remarkably seductive, generating a visceral response in the viewer. Just looking creates the sensation of touching. In many cases this is exactly what she invites you to do. Several of her exhibitions have included a "touch area," where visitors could handle the work and connect what they see to how the objects feel. During a visit to her studio, she picked up a series of small ceramic boxes to show me how the light changes when looking through their apertures. Somewhere between a camera obscura and a kaleidoscope, these hand-sized works draw the viewer into their tiny space to transform one’s perception of both the cube’s interior and the light in the room.
Several of her wall hangings offer an especially prickly and complicated viewing experience. The translucent, flaky surface of "Squares Pin Field" suggests an edible delicacy, until one sees the perilous bed of needles securing the flakes. It generates a tension between one’s conflicting impulses to touch and to recoil from it.
As she explored qualities of light and texture, Paschke began to include resin in her sculptures. At times she departs from porcelain altogether, to produce undulating, liquid-like boxes that bend light and transform color through resin. In "Window to Window," she floats a thin, z-shaped inked line in hardened, amber-colored resin. Light bends through the cube and contorts the line, shifting the z-shape from two to three-dimensions, depending on the viewer’s position.
Paschke allows gravity, heat, and moisture to participate in her sculptures, and these natural forces make each geometric form un-reproducible. Many of her sculptures combine resin and porcelain to play with all varieties of the 90-degree angle--cubes inside cubes, squares splitting rectangles, and hollow cube-shaped apertures. While her use of the rectangle recalls minimalist art, the boxes are never perfect cubes, and surfaces are never quite flat. Each object has its own unique relationship to light and texture.
REVIEW: Allison Paschke at 5 Traverse Gallery
The calendar page has turned, which brings an exciting new crop of gallery shows to focus those springtime wanderings.
Make sure to visit HYPERLINK "http://www.5traverse.com/" \t "_blank"5 Traverse Gallery, where tomorrow evening, Rhode Island artist HYPERLINK "http://www.allisonpaschke.com" \t "_blank"Allison Paschke will be opening a new exhibition of her mixed-media works in porcelain, cast-resin and layered pigments. Named after imaginary cities described in author Italo Calvino's 1972 novel: "Invisible Cities", Paschke's "Portable Pieces" invite handling and exploration; an adventure required to unlock the magical, invented spaces insinuated within their modest materials.
Visitors to 5 Traverse will have a chance to encounter Paschke’s newest work, scaled back into the "second and a half" dimension, which incorporates a bolder tier of the spectrum to invoke the quiet, imaginary perspectives inherent in the neutral pallete of her 3-D work.
:: All contributed content © 2007-2008 Meredith Cutler ::
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The Boston Pheonix
May 13, 2008
5 Traverse offers work by Allison Paschke... Paschke has been making delicate and meditative minimalist geometric abstract paintings and serene little tissue-box-sized porcelain boxes with resin windows. The highlights are her four Tabriz paintings, featuring many layers of resin and acrylic gel and some ink atop a Plexiglas mirror. The abstractions are divided into geometric sections by a patchwork of quadrilaterals, which call to mind Richard Diebenkorn compositions. Paschke says her title comes from an Iranian city that had been a center for making Persian miniatures. Transparent layers of resin and gel shimmer and glow, green or gold or amber, like old glass bottles or Vaseline or religious icons, depending on the light.
Many of the porcelain and a few of the resin sculpture titles come from a book by Italo Calvino called "Invisible Cities." In this story, the great Kublai Khan has conquered many cities, but he has never seen them. The Venetian traveler, Marco Polo, entertains the emperor with his highly abstract and imaginative descriptions of these cities. For example, according to Marco Polo, the city of Zobeide was built when many men all had an identical dream of pursuing a beautiful naked woman, seen only from the back, through the streets of an unknown city. When they awoke they decided to build a city so that they could entrap her if she appeared. They laid out Zobeide’ s street plans accordingly, but they never saw her again. The names of Calvino’ s imaginary cities appeal to me because they each sound like the name of both a place and a person. I chose them as titles according to which ones most suited the concepts of my pieces, which I think of "room" equivalents to Calvino’s cities.
Some of my other titles are also based on city names. For example, the wall pieces in the mirror painting series are my interpretations of the peculiar perspectives in ancient Persian Miniature Paintings. The titles "Herat", "Ispahan", and "Tabriz" are names of the cities where this art form flourished hundreds of years ago.
"Sanaa" is the capital of Yemen, a place that has architecture typical of many Islamic cities: buildings are perforated with small openings instead of windows, so that people can look out, but little sun and heat can come in. It is also a way for women to be hidden from public view. "Cairo" is an ancient Egyptian city; my piece is based on ancient Egyptian tombs in which similar doorways carved in stone surround the burial chamber. The doorways don’ t actually lead anywhere, but symbolically perhaps they lead to a wonderful place in the afterlife. "Thessaloniki" is the name of a Greek city in which white stucco surrounds beautiful green gardens.
I have never visited any of these cities.
Other pieces have rather boring descriptive titles. Perhaps I will think of more interesting names for them someday, and perhaps not.