Review in the Key of Rihanna: Stay, a Frayed Knot

By Chelsea Rector

February 15, 2014


If you’ve ever heard the song ‘Stay’ by Rihanna, a song that Patti Smith covers sometimes during live performances, then you know the power of a few short piano riffs. There’s a bridge in ‘Stay,’ Rihanna sings, “when you never see the light it’s hard to know which one of us is cavin.’” Cavin’ as in caving-in. We cave in when feeling becomes all too intense, whether by longing, astonishment, or joy. In Rihanna’s ballad ‘Stay’ and in aspects of the three-person group show A Frayed Knot, cavin’ speaks to sensing madness in feeling.

Rihanna sings, “something in the way you move,” and Cameron Crone articulates opening two cardboard pizza delivery boxes. Half Arc For Hot Box and Quarter Open are two floor sculptures concretizing, in minimal but dense and cool forms, arcs we make when we are hungry/wanting. Half Arc For Hot Box and Quarter Open are funny and inert, like Richard Artschwager’s “furniture.” Shape is given, as a possible outcome of feeling space. Crone’s Scratcher series, color still life photographs of shapes stripped from cat scratchers, resting on ruddy carpet swatches, these still lives capture dramatic, almost opaque, shadows. Crone’s sculptures and scratchers situate form, pushed into a kind of blunted rhetoric or a dry sense of humor.
Roman Figure With Lucky Charms is a photograph of an interior, by David Gilbert. Lucky Charms, hundreds, pinned to the gallery wall, frame this picture. The Roman Figure is flat like a person in a hieroglyph, stepping and reaching in ancient flat pictorial space, appendages obscured by objects— other artworks, and materials in the studio around the figure. Is it being made, or has it been made? Rihanna is “not really sure how to feel about it,” but the figure’s posture begets the picture’s ambiguity. This is not exactly a Bruce Nauman-esque studio process shot, but it is a black-and-white photograph with a frame. Lucky Charms suggest a kind of idiosyncratic mythos, a smile, and some benevolence. Roman Figure With Lucky Charms is a magic index.
So, about meaning—what happens when we see pinkish fingerprints on a gallery wall? The Cover Up is a large drawing by Samantha Roth; a flurry of warm hues makes the ground, on it a hanger shoulders the cover up. It is a white frock with Tatting around its edges—here Roth has cut out the paper surface. We see the wall, through the cover up’s details. A violet ribbon bow and pink fingerprints on the wall extend the drawing into kinesthesia, the space of the drawing body. The Cover Up is fraught with blushing and feverish possibility, ladylike, sex-latent, a figure joking.
A Frayed Knot—is it fraying or fearing, or both? It seems to be both and undeniable. Rihanna sings, “‘round and around and around and around we go.” In this three-person group show, Cameron Crone, David Gilbert, and Samantha Roth show us textures, surfaces, and objects that hinge on the repetition of suggested meaning, as in the entendre A Frayed Knot.