Maggie Crowley’s exhibition, “Comb,” on view at Devening Projects, indulges the viewer with a rare opportunity to notice objects for the first time again. The silk paintings and metal sculptures that complete the space offer the viewer a setting to comb through the folds of their brain, as familiar, intentional objects begin to emerge. Memory becomes tangible, and recollection becomes a pliable medium that Crowley carefully toys with alongside each stroke of gouache.
Resting on the floor is “Laundry Basket,” made of papier-mâché and cardboard. The surface of each woven strip crackles and stretches to the next, like freshly chewed, malleable pieces of bubblegum. The utility of the basket is rejected by its proudly upside-down placement, offering a moment to consider the form alone, without the distraction of balled-up clothing inside. This reignites the feeling of being a child and for the first time recognizing a laundry basket as an imaginative opportunity, a hat to wear upside down on your head, using it to collect rocks from the yard, or curling up tightly and resting inside its woven walls.
Suspending from the wall hangs “Banquet,” a baby blue and fleshy coral gouache-covered silk with its lower half protruded by a welded angle iron. A creased, checkered quilt shape emerges, implying a soft platform for the viewer to land on. Slowly and rhythmically, additional objects step out from the plane. Orange foam bell earplugs pepper the painting, as if spilled onto the surface of the silk and absorbed as part of the piece’s skin. Impressions of gear tracks wind around the upper right corner, fading behind the quilt form. The viewer is reintroduced to these familiar shapes, but get the opportunity to study their form as mark-making rather than utility. The sharp angular welded iron punctuates the silk as a skeletal interruption. A delicate dance is framed by their contact with one another, the flexible silk becomes the surprising anchor to the heavy angle iron.
Tucked shyly behind the gallery door hangs “Dry cleaning receipt for a welding jacket.” The stretched-silk canvas holds a caution-tape-yellow receipt depicted in gouache. Numerical details are displayed, including the location, phone number, date and order number. Crowley shines a spotlight on the vulnerability that this piece of paper can display: a choice suspended in time, reduced to its transactional significance, and recorded for proof. Receipts, often lost in the wind when digging in coat pockets, become a crucial documentation of time. This piece implies a memory of a person, a specific jacket, and reason for it to be cleaned. The detailed imagined backstory unfurls in the viewer’s mind, drummed up completely by this mundane stamp of time.
A construction cone orange camouflage hunting glove emerges in “A stack of firewood and a glove”; a security badge and barbed wire breathes forward in “Yardwork.” Crowley meticulously places a symphony of objects that materialize from the subdued layers of gouache, announcing themselves seriatim. Experiencing “Comb” is the gallery parallel to combing through the treasure chest of objects in your grandfather’s garage for the first time, noticing the complexities and sincerity of each item one at a time.
Maggie Crowley’s “Comb” at Devening Projects, 3039 West Carroll. On view through March 4.