In math, a sequence is defined as a list of ordered objects or elements that can be either finite or infinite in length. Despite comprising only three elements, “Sequential Escapes,” Sarah Leuchtner’s solo exhibition of sculptural drawings at Goldfinch, contains an abundance of ideas and boundless potential.
Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute in 2016, Leuchtner has been exploring the morphology of painting in spirited works that merge contemporary symbols, urban motifs, television references and scavenged shapes. “Sequential Escapes” finds the artist moving in a more rigorous direction by narrowing her material and chromatic parameters and putting the back sides of her works in play.
To create her sculptural drawings, each measuring 22 by 30 inches, Leuchtner weaves hundreds of zip ties through tightly gridded wire mesh stretched between copper pipes. The works are suspended by thin chains from the ceiling and hover in a regularly spaced, receding line that bisects the room at eye level.
Masses of zip ties—black, white, hot pink and shades of blue (the latter two hand-dyed)—cascade in a thick mat from the front of each work, softening the patches of color and blurring their edges. The effect is similar to looking through a window over which rain is streaming and trying to fix the view beyond the pane. From a distance, the surface reads like a shag rug, and the optical oscillation between stiff plastic and (implied) soft fabric is sensuously appealing.
On the verso, which discloses the coordinates of each looped zip tie, the hazy shapes and ambiguous pictorial space coalesce into sharp, pixelated images of cityscape and sky. There are fragments of buildings, scaffolding, silhouettes, wisps of smoke and what appear to be figures in motion. I was reminded of the raster graphics used in Atari game designs decades ago.
Leuchtner describes the drawings as snapshots in time, and the impression is strengthened by the migration of shapes from one work to the next. Walking around and past each suspended drawing, from the front to the back of the room, reinforces the temporal dimension.
Moving among the works in “Sequential Escapes” also reveals the most compelling aspect of Leuchtner’s project: that it resides in the enigmatic space between environment and self, between data and lived experience. If the backs of the works are analytical maps of inputs, the front expresses the way those inputs are filtered through and altered by our personal histories, emotions and memories (with the wire mesh functioning as the sensory and neural membrane through which everything flows).
“Sequential Escapes,” then, is an adroit representation of how we experience the world as sentient, complex beings. In three modestly scaled works created from commonplace materials, it makes tangible the dichotomy between the world as it exists and the world as we imagine it to be. It also reminds us that art is our bridge between the two.
“Sarah Leuchtner: Sequential Escapes” at Goldfinch, 319 North Albany. On view March 5–April 15.