Elizabeth Neel: The People, The Park, The Ornament


The People, the Park, the Ornament is an exhibition of new paintings and sculptures by American artist, Elizabeth Neel. Visual studies in controlled chaos, the works display Neel's continued interest in the theme of the psychological undercurrent and friction between the individual and the "landscape", be it natural, urban, ideological or emotional.

Neel sources anonymous images via the Internet that reflect a 'specific real world subject matter'. The 'specific' that Neel references can range from the texture of a feather, to the luminosity of an x-ray, to the flatness of an evolutionary diagram. There is an exuberant brutality in the gestural rendering of the work as well as in its dealings with the abjection of nature and death. The intensity of pigments recalls both bodily fluids and manufactured substitutes for natural phenomena. In this particular group of works, Neel makes use of dominant primary colour by way of calling into question the boundaries between a sign or a model and the substance or conglomeration for which it stands.

In her paintings, shapes hover and move across the surface while pieces of tape, placed and torn away at points of tension, appear to pull the image back onto the canvas, emphasising location, gravity, and speed. Painterly gestures hint at the linguistic and narrative potential of abstraction. They act as part of a diverse index of marks always visibly present in the work, a language filtered through a series of conditions, contingencies and moods that remark on the recognisable as both abstraction and representation.

Neel's sculptures examine her concerns with the brutality inherent in existence through a three-dimensional plane, utilising wood, steel, cast objects, clay, and colour. Her interest in the notion of the 'model' and the 'diagram' here takes the form of a floor sculpture in which routes, relationships, scale, and material refer to the body and the environment in an exploration of what Michel Foucault terms, in his book The Order of Things, as the 'murmur of analogies'. Objects attached to an L shaped steel bar imply adornment, punctuation, and circuitry. Cast objects such as cherries and a domestic animal skull supply examples of 1:1 scale, while organic shapes, a blue piece of clay, flat black painted plywood cut with a jigsaw and derived from shapes in Neel's paintings, lie prone and propped up, insisting on their own abstraction and ambiguity of scale. This sculpture relies on these shifting levels of familiarity to create a set of reverberating correspondences between the objects and the paintings in the exhibition.

Born in 1975, Elizabeth Neel lives and works in New York. She graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in 2007. Her most recent solo exhibitions include 3 and 4 before 2 and 5, Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York, (2013); Routes and Pressures, Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles (2012); Sphinx Ditch, Pilar Corrias, London (2011); Leopard Complex, Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York (2011); and Stick Season, curated by Fionn Meade at SculptureCenter, New York (2010). Recent group exhibitions include Speaking Through Paint, Lori Bookstein Fine Art, New York (2014); I Mean Orange, STUDIOLO, Zurich (2012); Modern Talking, curated by Nicola Trezzi, Cluj Museum, Cluji-Napoca (2012); Painting Overall, Prague Biennale 5 (2011); Going where the weather suits my clothes…fall of light on fabric, Mother's Tank Station, Dublin (2011).

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