REVIEW: “SUBJECTIVE” AT PUBLIC FUNCTIONARY, 2017
In Lindsey Splichal’s exhibition, Subjective, she invites her audience to participate in the experiential construction of the meaning of her work. The title of the show refers to the personal, internal experience facilitated by the artwork. The art objects she creates make use of other visual symbols, such as mirrors and reflections, to point toward subtle concepts, such as perception and perspective, which reinforce the experience of subjectivity.
The map and key that guide one’s experience of the artwork are the takeaways, packaged in black envelopes and presented within the installation. These takeaways beckon her audience to do what is typically, intrinsically forbidden: to touch the artwork. Further subverting expectations, the takeaways address her audience directly and end with a pointed question, asking, "Did you come here today expecting that the artwork would be all about you?" With this question, Splichal calls on her audience to use their subjective power to interact with and interpret her work.
Lindsay Splichal creates conceptual, deconstructionist prints and installations. The work is abstract and draws influence from minimalism. She works in black and white, and often prints simple, repetitive shapes and forms onto non-traditional materials. To explore the idea she calls "print as object", Splichal uses printmaking tools and processes to create unique objects which do not abide by printmaking conventions. For Splichal, print becomes sculpture and vice versa. In her work, three-dimensional forms are reduced to a two-dimensional, printed plane, while two-dimensional forms find three-dimensional expression.
She creates intersections, patterns, distortions, and illusions in her work through layering materials. She stacks and composes the art objects and her materials into assemblages she calls "sketches." Splichal’s installations contain images of images, and references upon references. Her prints are suspended from wires and clips, folded and draped over shelves, or applied to glass and laid on the ground. The work comes together in real-time compositions to create relational, spatial experiences that emphasize perspective. The work’s presentation makes it approachable, vulnerable, and open to interpretation. The ideas Splichal puts forth become interactive and tangible in the installation space.
Splichal’s work defies the traditional frame. All over the gallery her pieces lean against the walls, hang from clips and wires, rest on shelves, or lie on the floor. These choices remove the artwork from its proverbial pedestal and demystify it. Without the literal and symbolic barriers established by a frame, for example, the artwork, artist, and audience are brought closer together. Splichal’s approach to presentation activates the myriad angles and lenses from which the installation can be viewed, inviting each individual’s subjective perception.
In Subjective, the images and objects mirror, reflect, and reference other materials, similar forms, and familiar objects. "Reflective Nature" is four overlapping glass panes, each printed with a black rectangle in its center. The overlapping panes create black stripes — a familiar, repetitious motif in her work. Black ink applied to the reverse side of glass creates a reflective surface like a mirror. In this instance, the glass that is traditionally used to separate audience from artwork is instead used to bring them together, accentuating the individual experience of the work rather than creating a boundary.
The prints and art objects that comprise the installation are also reflections, translations, inversions, and repetitions. In beckoning us to consider "reflection", we are asked, literally and metaphorically, to see ourselves in the work. We project our own sensibilities out onto the work, which acts as a reflective surface for our thoughts, and receive an echo in return. Reflection is a concept frequently used to gesture at modes of self-understanding. It brings to mind phrases such as "to reflect upon"; "to look in the mirror"; to "see oneself in" something. Even a reflection returns to us changed. A mirror image is the reversal of what really exists. This distortion of reality and of "what is" mimics the fundamental discomfort associated with viewing conceptual and abstract art. More often than not, conceptual art forces us to construct our own meaning, and to inhabit our individual perspective of the work. This is the nature of subjectivity.
Splichal’s work also calls upon familiarity and repetition to create intrigue. What is familiar about her work includes not only well-worn symbols like the letters U and W, but also motifs that originate from within her installations and body of work. "Fluid Object", the third piece in a series, demonstrates this. The first in the series is "I I Bars, on Yellow", a screen onto which she has printed two parallel black bars. The second in the series is "I I Bars Phase I I", a print of a black-and-white image of "I I Bars, on Yellow." "Fluid Object" is made up of both "I I Bars Phase I I" and an additional printed image of it. These reiterations, these prints-of-images-of- images-of-objects, playfully confuse and distort the origin of her subject matter. Through repetition, the familiar can become untethered from its original meaning. In psychology this is called "jamais vu." Interestingly, the progression of this series points toward agency and reinvention. The work speaks to the fluidity of meaning and its interdependent reliance on both its substance and its context. Works like "Fluid Object" and its components are the very substance of abstraction, and this process is laid out in detail by Splichal.
Splichal’s installations often include printmaking tools, which further expose the inner workings of the artwork and the labor involved in its creation. In the case of "Act of Labor", a screen covered in black ink and squeegee marks, screen printing ink cans prop up the piece at an odd angle, in an unusual place. By displaying her tools in the installation, Splichal brings us into her world and into her practice. She shows the materiality and embodied nature of her work. The tools represent the obfuscated labors of producing artwork and, moreover, the hidden labors of mass production.
Printmaking is an artform traditionally intended for mass production. Repetition and reproduction are integral to the medium. Splichal plays with this concept in a number of ways. First, her pieces are usually monoprints. To create a singular, standalone piece with these materials is definitely tongue-in-cheek. While we live in an age of ceaseless mass production and consumption of objects that hold no little-to-no value (think plastic cups), to produce a solitary art object and suggest that it be imbued with meaning is an act of resistance. Second, she prints on nontraditional materials, often printing upon printmaking materials themselves. In creating art objects from reclaimed printmaking tools, Splichal siezes the means of art’s production. By repurposing the materials and methods of printmaking, and by inviting her audience to claim authority over the meaning of her work, Lindsay Splichal rebels against art world traditions with Subjective.