Storytelling, cinema, and giant pigs are part of a new work by artist Andrea Carlson, on view at Bockley Gallery beginning this weekend. Shown in exhibition with several smaller, related pieces, the giant 60-panel Ink Babel features cascading fantastical images laid out like filmstrips on top of one another.
Carlson calls Ink Babel a "monster piece," based on film and sequencing. In it, she's visualizing folded dimensions and folded time, exploring the idea of diaspora in storytelling and how symbols are disseminated.
The black-and-white painting, which took over a year to create, draws from the biblical Tower of Babel. While the work isn't a direct reference, Carlson took inspiration from iconic images of the tower. In the work, Carlson's assortment of elements -- which include crabs, Egyptian gods, and the golden record from NASA's Voyager mission -- are repeated on diagonals, appearing as seascapes stacked on top of each other.
After working for over a year on the piece, Carlson is excited to show it, first at Bockley Gallery and then at the Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art in Winnipeg. Ink Babel continues previous explorations she's done with deconstructing narrative, which she tackled with her work VORE. With that body of work, Carlson, who is of Swedish and American Indian heritage, looked at narrative in relation to power and cultural relations.
VORE used cannibalism films as a metaphor for assimilation and desiring the other. Carlson mainly fuels her criticism into her artwork, but she has spoken publicly and written about the way museums construct narratives around indigenous cultures. To her surprise, being an outspoken critic hasn't hurt her career, and in some cases has helped it. For example, she's spoken critically about bodies on display at the British Museum, an institution that bought a piece of her work. She says she's aware of institutions being more open to criticism. "Everyone's being smarter about narrative," she says.
IF YOU GO:
Ink Babel August 8 through September 13 Bockley Gallery The opening reception will be held on Friday, August 8 from 6 to 9 p.m.