March 24 – April 29, 2007
Saturday, March 24th, 5:00 - 8:00pm
Smack Mellon presents the work of two women artists in simultaneous one-person exhibitions. Letitia Quesenberry’s barely visible graphite figures emerge from vast disorienting landscapes contrasting with Ledelle Moe’s massive, grounding concrete heads that create the illusion of permanence. Both artists shift the scale of the human form to create very different statements and opposing experiences. Moe’s four monumentally sized sculptures fill the 3500 square foot main gallery space; in the project space, emerging artist Quesenberry’s human forms dissolve and disappear into fields of color, forcing the viewer to come closer.
My sense of identity as a South African is understood through the continued reinterpretation of past experiences via memory and imagination. Within the particular cultural and historical circumstances in South Africa, the tensions between power and powerlessness make this process fraught with contradictions. For me, the means by which I explore the emotional complexity of my experiences and my identity as a South African artist is through the language of the human form.
Permanence and impermanence, strength and vulnerability are constant themes in my work. The fall of a number of monuments in the last decade added particular relevance to the ideas I was exploring. I was thinking about how monuments are built with notions of permanence and how these very notions are contradicted.
As a new nation South Africa has sought to reconcile the past with the future. Questions arise as to the appropriateness of preserving and contextualizing old monuments associated with the promotion of the Afrikaner identity, and the erection of new ones commemorating leaders of the anti-apartheid struggle and celebrating the new government.
Fallen monuments mark those historic junctures where power shifts occur and speak to the changeable nature of these power structures. South Africa’s political flux and change resulted for me in a serious shift in my own understanding of heroes and hierarchies, both political and personal.
Most recently I have been exploring monumental scale and fragmented human form trough a series of portraits. I visualized a grouping of large heads positioned to create narrow passageways. I wished to explore the relationship of landscape and figure, here by configuring the heads so that each might read at once as natural boulder and fallen monument.
Ledelle Moe was born in Durban, South Africa in 1971. She studied sculpture there at Technikon Natal and graduated in 1993. Active in the local art community, Moe was one of the founding members of the FLAT Gallery, an artist initiative and alternative space in Durban. A travel grant in 1994 brought her to the United States where she embarked on a period of study at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Sculpture Department Master’s program. She completed her Master’s Degree there in 1996 and soon after accepted an adjunct position in the Sculpture Department at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland. Later she taught at the Corcoran College of Art in Washington, DC, Virginia Commonwealth University and St.Mary’s College of Maryland. Moe has exhibited in a number of venues including the Kulturhuset (Stockholm, Sweden) the NSA Gallery (Durban, South Africa), the International Sculpture Center (Washington, DC), The Washington Project for the Arts (Washington, DC) and Maryland Art Place (Baltimore). Though Moe remains strongly connected to South Africa, returning to visit annually, she has continued to live and work in the United States. Based presently far from home, the perspective particular to her roots as a South African artist remains central to her work. In 2002 Moe was the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Award which has allowed her time to work on new sculptures and travel back to South Africa where she has made and exhibited work. Recent projects include large-scale concrete installations at Axis Gallery in New York City, and G Fine Arts in Washington, DC. Moe is currently featured on the cover of Sculpture Magazine.
The work in ‘until’ conjoins transience and stillness, an effort to seize the fugitive nature of perception. Using thin layers of muted plaster to embed and then expose graphite within the surface, small figures emerge from vast disorienting landscapes. Definition of form emanates without outline: shadows and highlights merge. Representation and scale are simultaneously emphasized and understated, relying upon the viewer’s ability to infer. This lag in perceptible information mirrors liminal experience, the transitory struggle to comprehend the unknown. Success hinges upon the subtleties of surface, a minute exchange between material and process. The intention is to investigate and refine this exchange, giving license to the obscure in order to reconstruct representation.
Letitia Quesenberry graduated in 1993 with a bachelors degree in fine art from the University of Cincinnati. Upon graduation, she traveled extensively in Mexico and Europe. She has exhibited work at the Kunsthalle in Mainz, Germany and in numerous group shows including "Images of the World" at the Speed Art Museum and the "2007 DePauw Biennial" at DePauw University. She has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Pace Trust, as well as an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. She recently participated in a collaborative film project entitled MULTIPLY, which was shown at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her work has been published in NEW AMERICAN PAINTINGS and PITCH MAGAZINE. She was born in 1971 in Louisville, Kentucky, where she lives and works.