A Collaborative Show with Carrie Iverson and Nathan Sandberg
“Tally: A Collaborative Show with Carrie Iverson and Nathan Sandberg” at Gallery One One at the Brazee Street Studios in Oakley has a somewhat misleading title since the only thing vaguely collaborative is that Sandberg’s installation piece, Roundtrip (2011, bricks, dimensions variable) comprised of used bricks marching through the two galleries, invades Iverson’s space with her installation work of scavenged wood, twine, and black fabric, Counterpoint (2011).
And the exhibition title—“Tally”–is also the name of a large wall piece by Sandberg, further confusing the issue. I see it rather as a two-person exhibition or even a thematic show with works that are visually quite different but related intellectually as both artists address the phenomenon of time.
In Sandberg’s Tally (steel, concrete, wood, and kiln-formed glass, 135” x 80” x 20”), it is hard to discern how it deals with time. The piece is made up of 26 hand-wrought steel rings arranged in a grid of three horizontal rows of seven with the fourth and bottom row having only five. The wall behind them has been painted a dove-gray to delineate the boundaries of the piece. The rings hang from simple u-shaped hooks, also steel, and each holds from one to four stakes in varying lengths made of wood, concrete, or kiln-formed glass. The code to decipher what these rings with their stakes, hanging like keys on a key ring, isn’t readily apparent although they are visually satisfying.
In his statement, Sandberg explains Tally “document(s) a repeating activity that has developed into a routine,” and that the individual objects are “connected to (the) repetitious nature of life as I see it. The number of times I find myself performing a task as mundane as reaching for my keys or driving the same three routes to and from work is perplexing.”
Even before I read his statement, Hanne Darboven’s work came to mind. She is known for her obsessive recording of numbers or texts. For example, her first work listed numbers derived from additions or multiplications of date, hours, and days of the week. Her signature artworks consist of sheet after sheet, completely covered by numbers or writing, that are framed and installed butting up against each other. I find the result aesthetically pleasing whether or not I know the underlying rationale. A press release for a June 2003 group exhibition “Lines of Engagement” at New York’s Sperone Westwater Gallery succinctly describes her work:
Associated with conceptual art since her exhibition debut in 1967, much [of]
German artist Hanne Darboven’s work originates from the digits that form the
date, which are then used in autonomous numerical relations, which she has
personally devised. Through this concept, the artist offers a system to represent
time as both the continuous flux of life and clear embracing order.
I would contend that Sandberg’s Tally might be explained in a similar manner. Iverson makes her connection to the show’s premise by noting that “‘Tally’ investigates different systems of marking time” and that her “contributions to the show reflect how those attempts at recording often end up being obliterated by time itself.”
But her work doesn’t require explication. Her milky-white kiln-formed tablets bear faded marks that were presumably once readable. Codex (2011, kiln-formed glass, 16” x .125” x 20”) makes this clear. Although no longer legible–lines are smudged and partially “erased”—I imagine that they once communicated something quite specific. Over the course of time, its message has been nearly lost.
There is one direct connection between the artists. In Iverson’s lithograph Survey (2011, 24” x 38”), the faded lines, which look like ink that has bled into the paper, delineate a topographical map that is overlaid on a grid. The sheet has been folded, unfolded, and refolded, leaving creases as a record of those actions. Sandberg’s stakes refer directly to grade stakes that are used on construction sites to mark changes in elevation.
I remain unconvinced that “Tally” is the best name for this exhibition. As a noun, the word is defined as a “device (as a notched rod or mechanical counter) for visibly recording or accounting, especially business transactions.” As a verb it means “to make a count of.” Both definitions fit Sandberg’s Tally perfectly, but don’t really describe Iverson’s romantic evocations of the past.
-Karen S. Chambers
Tally: A Collaborative Show with Carrie Iverson and Nathan Sandberg on view through June 3rd at Gallery One One, Brazee Street Studios, 4426 Brazee St., Cincinnati, OH 45209. 513-321-0206