East End artists Alice Hope, Toni Ross and Bastienne Schmidt are currently showing their work in “No W here,” a show running through September 11 at Ricco/Maresca Gallery in Chelsea.
The artists share a deep friendship that has endured for more than 20 years and this is their first foray as a collective. The catalyst for “No W Here,” and the resulting exhibition is based on a simple prompt that they agreed on — to select an artifact from the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and respond to it through their own artwork.
Serendipitously, they each chose a Navigational Chart (Rebbilib) from the 19th-early 20th century. This map, and others like it, consists of delicately woven coconut palm fronds that form a grid of sorts. The object is minimal and graphically simplistic. Its purpose was originally to instruct sailors of wave patterns and mark various locations of the Marshall Islands.
The selection of this particular object, fortuitous in nature, revealed an allegorical theme, previously unconscious, from which their new work is based: Navigation. Unexpectedly, COVID-19 ravaged much of the world. People retreated into their homes, stores shuttered their doors, restaurants closed, and for the first time in over a decade, planes weren’t crossing the sky as often. Hope, Ross, and Schmidt sought answers beyond isolation from the communal experience, and an unpredictable nature of the virus.
A quote from “Coral and Concrete,” a book by Greg Dvorak published in 2018, says, “… the middle of both now and here, not nowhere but now-here,” resonated with them as they individually and collectively embraced this new normal. Entering their respective studios, they each explored their personal relationship to way-finding, anthropology, maps and the revelation of plotting a course. The resulting work is varied in aesthetics and technique. Yet, it overlaps through the rawness of material and a penchant for the nautical. The element of seeking, locating, and connecting has tied them together and strengthened their existing bond.
Alice Hope has made free-standing sculptures consisting of fishing lines, ball chains, and Corona beer can tabs. Organized in cylindrical and rectangular shapes, the work hangs from the ceiling of the gallery, and could almost be compared at first glance to a fishnet.
Toni Ross’s contribution includes a delicate, mixed media series of drawings on paper, as well as two hanging sculptural works made of string woven onto sturdy, repurposed wrought iron frames.
Bastienne Schmidt most directly responded to the Navigation Chart (Rebbilib). Grids have been part of her practice for quite some time, and the work in “No W here” follows a similar geometric pattern, not unlike the one found in the Navigation Chart.
Ricco/Maresca Gallery is at 529 West 20th Street, New York (riccomaresca.com).