Ashley Garrett Emptyrealm 2019 oil on gessoed paper 4 x 6 inches 10.16 x 15.24 cm (AGA1025)

Ashley Garrett: Aegis

June 26, 2020 August 30, 2020

SEPTEMBER presents Aegis, Ashley Garrett’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. After several delayed starts, we are thrilled to share a body of work that has been waiting for eyes since mid-March. We would like to express our gratitude to Ashley who has been extraordinary in her patience and perseverance, pivoting with us along the way. There has been nothing static about the experience of putting on this show, and we are aware of what time has offered us, allowing shifts both subtle and significant. 

Aegis includes 16 of Garrett’s smallest oil paintings at 4 x 6 inches, and one of her largest works at a towering 94 x 57 inches. Garrett’s two scales mark the physical extremity of her practice, demonstrating the adjustments of perception that she exercises in her process. The installation itself requires proximity and distance. Garrett’s small works occupy the majority of the exhibition, while a singular large work embraces an unobtrusive, initially unseen space. To confront and absorb the marvel of each piece, movement is required.

From one painting to the next, Garrett’s brushwork maintains a reverent attentiveness despite scale. The pace of her mark-making varies in speed, width, and density, activating a specific tempo within each piece. The range of Garrett’s bold palette coalesces into dense overlays and spreads into expansive washes. 

Garrett’s works are often deeply spatial and connected to landscape. However they are not derived from nature (though the outdoors deeply impacts Garrett and literally surrounds her studio), but from both an emotive and spiritual space. Garrett writes, “There’s such a challenge in that continual flattening and deepening that rotates around us when we’re outside, and that’s what I’m interested in discovering through painting space. Not a literal depiction of land but a quality of feeling held by it as it spins around you in time and light.” Nature is a conduit for Garrett.

Garrett’s works deflect stasis and fracture unmoving perspectives. We are both near and far, here and there. The ground is underfoot and the horizon is at a distance. We are both physical and temporal, grand and insignificant. Trees stand on composted forest. Garrett writes, “We are here now, at a moment to look backwards and forwards at the same time and everything is close and altered and time is rushing forward.” Garrett’s paintings are a conscious exploration of simultaneity.

All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked another way,

And saw three islands in a bay.

So with my eyes I traced the line

Of the horizon, thin and fine,

Straight around till I was come

Back to where I started from;

And all I saw from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood.

Over these things I could not see;

These things were the things that bounded me;

And I could not touch them with my hand,

Almost, I thought, from where I stand.

And all at once things seemed so small

My breath came short, and scarce at all.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Renascence,” 1912

The title of Garrett’s show, Aegis, is also unfixed. Historians disagree over the origins and specifics of this shifting symbol in Greek mythology. It is a shield, an animal skin, a roaring sound. It is both Zeus’ violent windstorm and protection for gods and mortals. Its nature is uncertain, however its purpose is to safeguard.

One can’t help but wonder if the physical and mental exertion of Garrett’s process, the energetic pushing of her medium, and the suggestive but allusive nature of her compositions, might concoct into an incantation, resulting in a thing that has its own temperaments and qualities. All of this she does, Garrett writes, “while the paintings look.”

Ashley Garrett (b. 1984) graduated with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2008. Solo and two-person exhibitions include Hood Gallery (Brooklyn), Chase Gallery (West Hartford, CT), SRO (Brooklyn, NY), Six Depot (West Stockbridge, MA), and RISD Memorial Hall Gallery (RI). She has participated in group exhibitions at Katonah Museum (Katonah, NY), Regina Rex (NYC), The Painting Center (NYC), Planthouse (NYC), Orgy Park (Brooklyn), Nurture Art (Brooklyn), Torrance Art Museum (Los Angeles, CA), Geoffrey Young Gallery (Great Barrington, MA), TSA LA (Los Angeles, CA), Cross Contemporary Art (Saugerties, NY), Church of St Paul the Apostle (NYC), Every Woman Biennial (NYC), Brian Morris Gallery (NYC), Novella Gallery (NYC), and Schema Projects (Brooklyn). Recent publications include Ashley Garrett: Tarot Images and Co-Configurative Eternities, in which poets read and respond to her paintings and ArtMaze Magazine’s Issue 10. Garrett has curated shows in New York and Los Angeles and she has interviewed numerous artists including Katherine Bernhardt, Lisa Sanditz, Ann Craven, Judith Linhares, Brenda Goodman, Lori Ellison, and choreographer Melissa Fenley for publications such as Whitehot Magazine, Figure/Ground, and Painting is Dead. Ashley Garrett lives and works in New York City and East Chatham, NY.   For more information, please contact kristen@septembergallery.com