Piece signs

Whole Fragment

Artist Losang Samten takes apart his sand mandala that took nine days to make.

Artist Losang Samten takes apart his sand mandala that took nine days to make.

Photo By David Robert

Whole Fragment is a theme-based exhibition featuring the work of seven artists: Polly Apfelbaum, Chakaia Booker, Nina Bovasso, Jennilie Brewster, Arturo Herrera, Fawn Krieger and Losang Samten. The work of three authors—Joel Felix, Tim Griffin and Anne Lauterbach are also included.

The artists and authors make and use combinations of this and that, bits and pieces, accrual and precarious accumulation, as attempts to articulate how meaning might be made from fragments.

Collectively, the expressions in this show—implying what you don’t know is far more relevant than what you do—can also be seen as a supposition, a highly improbable event, having both an impact and an after-the-fact explanation.

“As is” as the current condition, not “as if it once looked like this.” Is the view better from the periphery or the center?

Fragments are usually taken to be remnants, shards that pre-suppose the breaking-up of some kind of whole. The portions imply or recreate the whole, like gluing Pre-Columbian pots back together. Here the journey is the other way round, from the whole exhibition to its whole fragments—it also seems to suggest the content of their meaning is a combination of how and what, the two oscillating back and forth, into and then out of one another.

What do you get when you constitute the whole out of individual fragments? Are our notions of apparent randomness just incomplete information? Do the artists/works share more affinities, or perceived differences, bits and pieces with unbridgeable gaps? Does it matter?

As explorations of least rather than most likely paths, the works use lateral thinking to call upon complexity, polyvalency and ambiguity to assess not one whole cloth, one whole truth, one whole idea, but rather many, where the whole fragments become confused.

The works are primarily additive, relying on accretion and accumulation—long elliptical lines, shortly truncated lines, grains of sand, cast-off detritus, exploding dots, displaced furnishings, bits of tires, abstracted photographic referents. They are collages, things resulting from various processes of many becoming one. But a one that is not resolved because its fragments still argue for sovereignty.

This is a process which depends on the viability of the structure between the fragments. Space is different in collage, an exercise in taking apart and bringing together, breaking down and building up a story or idea out of odds and ends, achieving consensus.

Flotsam and jetsam become imagined views, cityscapes; mandalas go berserk in explosions of dots; old furniture and geometric forms share the same orphanage; tires morph into the Alien; pieces of cartoons become abstracted shapes, juxtaposing and imposing partly obscured images; the apparent constancy of a wheel of life is permeable, in flux.

The fragments—objects, attitudes—are elements of cultural information—memes (theoretical units of culture) which, like language, are virally transmitted in a horizontal epidemiology, passing from artist to artist, from group to group, accreting into schools of thought, aesthetic stances, memeplexes.

While perhaps valuable as avenues for the exchange of information, they are also recursive feedback loops warning us not to mistake the map for the territory.

The relationships of the unrelated become an ever-changing whole cloth where understanding is constantly redefined by assimilating unrelated fragments. To paraphrase Wallace Stevens, we know we cannot bring the world quite round, so we patch as we can.