Karen Reimer is attracted to the labor-intensiveness of craft and to the question of whether the hand is even necessary in art-making. Reimer jumbles craft and concept into an insane network of thought. She asks, what happens when you place craft within the realms of minimalism or a strictly conceptual practice? Then she thoroughly investigates the relationship between the mind and the body within a closed system. Applying rigid minimalist strategies to soft craft techniques, Reimer creates a system of self-imposed constraints and subsequently lets the system produce “the final result” on its own.
What effect does the mind have on the hand in producing said work? “This whole thing probably goes back to the mind vs. body thing—one of those big Western dualities,” Reimer says. She is interested in observing the breakdown of the walls that divide the distinction between concepts and objects, or thoughts and hands.
Her current exhibition at Monique Meloche gallery, titled “Endless Set,” implements a systematic approach to the handmade. The work consists of a set of pillowcases decorated with prime numbers. Each pillowcase is made of the same number of fabric scraps as the prime number decorating it, such that prime number eleven is appliquéd onto a pillowcase composed of eleven scraps of fabric. The prime number, made of white fabric, is the same inches in length as itself, i.e., prime number eleven is eleven inches long. As the prime numbers get larger than the pillowcases, which are twenty-by-twenty inches each, the excess white fabric is folded back and layered over. As the prime numbers get increasingly larger, they more completely obscure the pillowcase made of increasingly smaller scraps. Therefore, as Reimer states it, she is “decorating pillowcases with conceptual art,” and eventually causing the pillowcase to cease function as pillowcases. She describes the series as “a sort of contest between the immaterial concept of infinity, as symbolized by numbers, and the limitations of the material world.”
Reimer plans to continue the series until she is no longer physically capable to make the pillowcases according to the system. She expects the breakdown of the system, the entropy, the lack of disorder, predictability and the decline into disorder to occur at the point where the number of fabric scraps making up the underlying pillowcase will be so large that the scraps will be too tiny to sew together. (Karissa Lang)
Karen Reimer shows at Monique Meloche Gallery, 118 North Peoria, through May 31.