Jessica Silverman Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Tammy Rae Carland. Titled “Live From Somewhere,” the show explores the affinities between theater and photography, the pressures of performance, and the enchantments of the “live.” It consists of artworks in a range of media, including a seven-minute video, color photographs, black-and-white photograms, and aluminum and Plexiglas sculptures.
The central thesis of the exhibition is contained in a single-channel video titled Live from Somewhere, inspired by the opening sequence of the late Gilda Radner’s 1979 one-woman stage show. In the film, a hand-controlled spotlight enters and exits a theatrical proscenium, searching for the center of attention, who never arrives. The light paces, scans, struts and frets – itself becoming an abstract actor upon the stage. An expression of performance anxiety, the video suggests the stage fright of the reluctant entertainer as well as the collective unease of the expectant audience. A meditation on the act of searching, the video harks back to the theater of the absurd (particularly Waiting for Godot) and looks askance at the incongruity of being “stood up” by a “stand up.”
Carland has also made a series of large-scale color photographs that explore similar themes of live performance and death, absence and presence, and the magic of the ephemeral. Smoke Screen, for example, stars a waft of mysterious fog, which emanates from a suggestive slit between two blue stage curtains. Balancing Act features nineteen gold chairs acrobatically stacked to the point where they threaten to topple, framed by velvet drapes with scalloped valance. Tipping Point presents a group of ladders arranged in a precarious assemblage, suggestive of vaudevillian collaborations, while Ghost Light portrays a single enchanted mop, intent on a solo performance. To varying degrees these photographs include reference to the luscious, sensual folds of curtains, the culturally loaded fabric that divides artist from audience, inside from outside, fantasy from reality.
Complimenting the photographs, Carland’s sculptures of ladders and megaphones extend the show’s themes of ambition and the artistic desire to be heard. The ladders are titled Pratfall Effects after a term used in social psychology to describe the perceived increase or decrease in a person’s attractiveness after he/she makes a mistake. Made of translucent Plexiglas, the ladders suggest the fragility of self-esteem and the inconspicuousness of real cultural status. The megaphones, titled Mimes, are all re-interpretations of the vintage bullhorns used to command attention in the days before the microphone. These painted aluminum forms are now mute; they are cones of silence, trophies to the last word.
Finally, Carland’s photograms are unique works made directly on photographic paper with the use of a disco mirror ball, hence the title, Discograms. They circle back to the video Live from Somewhere and then spin off into an arena where they seek their own limelight. The Discograms challenge the primacy of the stage by evoking an environment where “live” music has died out and the audience becomes the show.
Reviews in Artforum, San Francisco Chronicle, Droste Effect