Repetition is painful. Repetition is frustrating. Repetition is harmful. Consider how repetition is used as a punishment by the dated elementary school discipline of writing on the board: repeatedly writing a sentence to get the student to meditate on it and keep the lesson.
Repetition is satisfactory. Repetition gives power. The repetition is melodic. Consider how repetition is used for comfort: a repeated refrain in a favorite, predictable, and rewarding song with every note.
The exhibition “Overlap, mark, repeat“Curated by Cristobal Alday at the Chicago Artists Coalition, presents the work of Bryana Bibbs and Sirimas Benz Amatayakul. Together, the two artists investigate the different intense and visceral reactions a body has to repetition. Each artist offers their own perspectives, resulting in a contradictory aesthetic. The exhibit is exceptionally well balanced, inviting and meditative.
Bibbs piece, “After,” it extends over almost an entire wall of the gallery. Made with strips of hand-woven cotton, paper and marker, the fabric invites the viewer to consider the colossal feat of physical echo from which this piece was born. Positioned on the far right of the piece is a QR code that shares Bibbs’ video documentation making the fabric. Performative, contemplative and meticulous, Bibbs works tirelessly with these strips of paper as a way to sift through concepts of trauma, time and memory. The document is made up of old journal entries. Though unreadable to the viewer, the sheer volume of voices is enough to pack this piece with the heavy weight of emotional baggage. “After” it hits the boring and methodical side of repetition. Bibbs discusses the act and shapes it into a healing elixir. “After” feels like a massage: a constant pain probe, light enough to bear but tough enough to tear the muscles apart and allow the body to grow back stronger.
The wall in front of “After” houses a row of seven Benz paintings. Each acrylic painting explodes into layered, rich and controlled chaos. A performative element is added when acrylic paint pours from the surface of the canvases and onto the gallery wall behind it, as if this exploration forcefully takes hold of the artist. Benz uses repetition as a vehicle for mulling over the loss of innocence in childhood. The canvases host layer upon layer of thick, icing-like strokes playfully depicting murmurs of abstract flora, insects, stars and more. The resulting storyline is incredibly interesting and requires a deep desire to be heard. Looking at each piece reminds you of finding shapes in the clouds: noticing the dimensionality of the clouds, just out of reach, wishing that a fleeting moment could be touched and materialized.
Both Bibbs and Benz explore complex realms within human experience using repetitive materials and practices. Although the aesthetics of each artist’s work are contradictory, they are united by their undeniable stamina. “Overlap, mark, repeat ” he renounces the melodic nature of repetition in a warm and deeply meditative way that leaves room for the viewer to reflect in a deeply personal way together with the artists. (Fout allies)
“Layer, Mark, Repeat” is on display at the Chicago Artists Coalition, 2130 West Fulton, through July 14.