Edie Fake has a knack for finding space where there was none. His artistic practice mines the grammar of architecture to carve out space for bodies that have been othered and invalidated by dominant systems of knowledge. In past paintings and drawings, he accentuates the peripheries of architecture as radical sites in which queer identities can access and lay claim to their bodily experiences.
In his latest series, “The Pieces,” at Western Exhibitions, Fake abandons traditional architectural forms and ornament and instead offers a more plastic medium to unearth apparatuses of self-understanding and knowledge formation.
The first gallery presents thirteen gouache paintings of kaleidoscopic sandcastles emerging from pitch-black grounds. The sculptural quality of these paintings—each panel’s edges painted to imitate layers of sediment in the earth’s crust—produces the effect of vibrant graduated cores penetrating through layers of sand, soil and rock. Fake plays with the porosity of and permeability of sand to convey a sense of fluidity between states. The space between the component pieces provides an abundance of channels that, no matter how narrow, something can always pass through.
A suite of ten collages in the second gallery, recalling illustrations from natural history catalogues and science textbooks, offer a representational foil to Fake’s abstract paintings. Observing the central work, “Everyone’s Everything,” the mind easily succumbs to the allure of classification: the power to name and to order. At first glance, one apprehends the silhouette of a pavilion. Akin to the visual language of architectural follies, the structure serves no evident purpose. Composed of a stepped platform, pitched roof and two columns crowned by a starred halo, the structure is marked by eccentricities in form rather than functional capacity. Then the pieces come into view.
One might endeavor to create an inventory of all of the cutouts and sequin shapes that comprise the collage. A binary—natural and artificial—offers an initial order of difference. The composition splits in two. This limited division adds scant definition to the pieces at hand. What language distinguishes a butterfly from a volcano? What properties distinguish a jet engine from a sound meter? A narrowing occurs in the act of sorting. Trickling down phyla, classes and orders, one may group through the act of observation. The pieces reveal discrete categories: insects and shells on one side; accessories and appliances on the other. The pieces accumulate greater specificity: a monarch butterfly, a slingback mule, a cross-section of the earth. Suspended in the precision afforded by taxonomic distinctions, the pieces lay isolated on the white ground.
And yet affinities arise. Across from a helicopter rests a whirlybird seed. Outfitted with aerodynamic wings, one organic and one man-made, these pieces bridge a vast gap. The gap now seems small. This slippage brings the entire composition back into focus. The pieces settle into an order, their shape and placement expressing a fluidity across forms. Every piece has the capacity for kinship, the spaces between them now channels for encounters.
Observation is a powerful tool, but it can also enact a violence on the observed. Fake is incredibly adept at articulating both the usefulness and limitation of naming what we see, which legitimizes and records, but also fixes in place. In “The Pieces,” Fake allows us to see everything at once. It is the ebb and flow of every single piece coming into focus. (Alexandra Drexelius)
“The Pieces,” Western Exhibitions, 1709 West Chicago, through July 24.