At Land:

Michael Bell-Smith
Erin Calla Watson
Srijon Chowdhury
Petra Cortright
Sojourner Truth Parsons
Travess Smalley
geetha thurairajah

Maya Deren’s At Land (1944, 16mm, B&W, silent, 14 min.) will be screened online from July 7-14 courtesy of The New American Cinema Group, Inc./The Film-Makers’ Cooperative.

“At Land” takes its title from the 1944 film by legendary Ukrainian-American experimental filmmaker Maya Deren. Deren, the central character of her black-and-white silent film, travels through and across landscapes and interiors in scenes that are dreamlike and surreal. Taking inspiration from the film’s poetic dimension crossing, the group exhibition comprises works whose perspectives move between interiors and exteriors, and where foregrounds and backgrounds hold a heightened psychological charge.

“At Land” includes a range of media, including photography, animation, painting and video, by Michael Bell-Smith, Erin Calla Watson, Srijon Chowdhury, Petra Cortright, Sojourner Truth Parsons, Travess Smalley, and geetha thurairajah.

Michael Bell-Smith presents a new series of images that combine vintage animation backgrounds with digital prints on acetate portraying hands and text. The material layering evokes the process used in traditional cel animation, while the compositions resemble a freeze frame from a subtitled cartoon. Their wry texts read like isolated snippets of dialog, pronouncements that may be either pragmatic or philosophical. The works’ pointing hands highlight the unseen protagonists’ relationships with their backgrounds.

Erin Calla Watson’s photographs capture scenes of monochromatic rooms featuring iconic stars—comic book character Harley Quinn, singer Britney Spears, and actor John Wayne. The artist modeled the room based on an image found on r/malelivingspace, a reddit thread where single men seek interior design advice from other single men. For the artist, each character represents the alienation and desire inherent in their rooms and questions surrounding them. The flattened image and reflective materiality of the reconstructed scenes produce an uncanny perspective that hovers somewhere between two and three dimensions and between realism and a heightened theatricality.

Srijon Chowdhury presents two new oil paintings: in “My Good Ear” fighting mythical figures emerge from an ear, pointing to struggles within the mind escaping into the world; Chess depicts a dispassionate game between mother and daughter. In Deren’s film—and for the Surrealists that inspired her—the game of chess represents a clash of hybrid forms orchestrated by two opposing forces. Both Deren and Chowdhury center women as the catalysts of symbolic actions.

Petra Cortright’s latest video animation, “checkerboard seashell boy diamonds on water,” (2022), suggests stormy, aqueous landscapes in flux. The artist has created twilight scenes that capture the final bursts of evanescent colors. Lightning appears above as we seem to be then submerged in Monet-like lakes containing a rich spectrum of pattens, marks, and textures. The video changes subtly at times and then later dramatically as both realist and abstracted forms drift, evolve, fragment, and coalesce.

Sojourner Truth Parsons’ new multi-panel painting portrays flowers, candles, and a window in sharp fields of radiant color heightened by black backgrounds The work reads like a film strip or a storyboard, a dynamic still life where definitions of inside and outside are unstable. Parsons uses the motif of the window as a portal to other dimensions, to a twilight of liminal spaces, times, and sensations.

Travess Smalley’s vivid new prints are auto-generated by his LandscapeScript computer program that gives instructions to Adobe Photoshop to randomly produce landscapes. These scenes can potentially have multiple celestial objects, clouds, flower types, mountains, and terrain. The artist has stated that “the work is pictorially inspired by Arthur Dove and Yves Tanguy’s amorphous, horizonless, abstracted landscapes.”

geetha thurairajah’s paintings cut into the legibility of the traditional landscape painting. They picture figures within diffuse environments: meditational gardens where a statue of the Buddha is the centerpiece, a mythical woman in a tree with fiery, floral wings. Through a dissolving lens, each work abstracts its content, allowing for readings that are allusive and fragmentary.

Michael Bell-Smith (East Corinth, ME, 1978) lives and works in Accord, NY. He holds a BA in Semiotics from Brown University, Providence, RI, and an MFA from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Recent exhibitions include: “Virtual Landscapes,” [Senne], Brussels, Belgium; “All Art is Virtual,” Thoma Foundation Art Vault, Santa Fe, NM; “America. Between Dreams and Realities,” Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, QC, Canada (all 2022). “Summer Screening Series, Lost in Place: Voyages in Video,” Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2021); “The Smiths,” curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Marlborough Contemporary, London, UK (2019); “A Visibility Matrix, by Sven Anderson and Gerard Byrne,” Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland (2018); “Mall Punk,” Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway (solo) (2017-2018); and “Greater New York,” MoMA PS1, Queens, NY (2015-2016).

Erin Calla Watson (b. 1993, Los Angeles, CA) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Watson received a BFA from Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, and is an MFA candidate at CalArts, Los Angeles. Exhibitions include “a somewhat thin line,” In Lieu, Los Angeles, CA; “KYLE,” Larder, Los Angeles (both 2022); and “The Conspiracy of Art: Part II,” Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles (2019).

Srijon Chowdhury (Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1987) lives and works in Portland, OR. He holds an MFA from the Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angles, CA, and a BFA from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN. Exhibitions include: “Same Old Song,” Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA (solo)(forthcoming 2022); “Srijon Chowdhury,” Ciaccia Levi, Paris, France (solo); “Dandelion Song,” Foxy Production, New York, NY (solo); “Striving After Wind,” Chapter NY, New York, NY; “Halcyon and On and On,” organized by Jennifer Carvalho, Franz Kaka, Toronto, ON, Canada (all 2021); “Severed Symbol,” Deli Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; “Barely Furtive Pleasures,” Nir Altman, Munich, Germany (all 2020; “A Divine Dance,” Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, CA (solo)(2019); “Endings” with Bobbi Woods The Art Gym, Marylhurst, OR (all 2018); and “Water & Dreams,” The Green Gallery, Milwaukee, WI (2017).

Petra Cortright (Santa Barbara, CA, 1986) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She studied Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design, The New School, New York, NY, and at California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA. Exhibitions include: "The Body Electric,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, touring to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA, and the Miami Dade College Galleries of Art +Design, Miami, FL (2019–2021); “Collection 1970s–Present: Search Engines,” MoMA, New York, NY; “.paint,” MCA, Chicago, IL (both 2020); "Dirty Protest: Selections from the Hammer,” Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; "Now Playing: Video 1999-2019,” Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ; “Hate Speech: Aggression and Imitation,” Künstlerhaus, Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz, Austria (all 2019); and “I Was Raised On the Internet,” MCA, Chicago, IL (2018).

Sojourner Truth Parsons (Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1984) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, NS, Canada. Exhibitions include: “My name is not Susan,” Foxy Production, New York, NY (solo); “The New Bend,” curated by Legacy Russell, Hauser & Wirth, New York, NY (2022); “l’Invitation au voyage,” Esther Schipper, Berlin, Germany; “This is America,” Kunstraum Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany; “Springweather and people,” Bortolami, New York, NY (all 2021); “Milk river,” Various Small Fires, Seoul, South Korea (solo)(2020); and “Holding Your Dog At Night,” Oakville Galleries, Oakville, ON, Canada (solo)(2017).

Travess Smalley (Huntington, WV, 1986) lives and works in Providence, RI. He holds a BFA from The Cooper Union, New York, NY, and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI. Exhibitions include: “Des champs de fraises pour l’éternité,” La Galerie, centre d’art contemporain de Noisy-le-Sec, Noisy-le-Sec, France (2022); “Minecraft Language Edition,” Ender Gallery in collaboration with MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK, Canada (solo)(2021); “Pixel Rugs,” Arcade On Stadium, Provo, UT (solo)(2021); “Downtown Painting,” Peter Freeman Inc., New York, NY (2019); and “Standing Still, Lying Down, As If,” Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit, MI (2018-2019).

geetha thurairajah (Waterloo, ON, Canada) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. thurairajah holds a BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, CA, and is participating in the MFA program at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Exhibitions include “nonplussed+,” Jack Barrett, New York, NY (solo)(2021); “Soothsay” with Gabi Dao, Unit 17, Vancouver, BC, Canada; “Ozone Gleaners” with Tiziana La Melia, Projet Pangee, Montreal, QC, Canada (both 2020); “Migration is more momentous than ancient invasions,” Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, ON, Canada (solo)(2019); and An Assembly of Shapes, Oakville Galleries, Oakville, ON, Canada (2018).

Photography: Charles Benton.


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