Shannon Bool, Patterns of Emancipation

May 31st- July 21st, 2012

Bool’s new work explores the need to obtain freedom from prescribed spaces. A continuation of Bool’s previous work, the exhibition examines the visual identities of a culture or era (colours, ornaments, prints and patterns) and decontextualizes these visual codes until a new pattern or object emerges. This new object –¬¬ a painting on silk, a photogram or a sculpture – exudes the duality of experiencing freedom and confinement when identified with a certain community or time period. The tension created by these polar opposites characterizes Bool’s practice.

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Among the works featured in Patterns of Emancipation is “Casino Runner”, a twenty-foot-long carpet that acts, quite literally, as the grounding force of the exhibition.  The carpet’s pattern is appropriated from a cheap wall-to-wall carpet that decorated an Aztec-themed casino in the 1980s.  The casino itself is a throwback to the iconic Art Deco monument, the Aztec Hotel, that still operates in Monrovia, California. American Art Deco used the powerful geometry of ancient Mexican civilizations to break from European aesthetic traditions.   Bool’s carpet, exquisitely hand-knotted by traditional village weavers in Anatolia, Turkey, heightens – even fetishizes – the production values combining the sublime and hysterical experience of entering a casino with the distinctly Eastern reading of a Western sensibility.

The merging of alleged opposites continues in a group of bar sculptures based on an ongoing mural project.  Initiated two years ago by Bool at the women’s prison in Berlin-Pankow, a Neo-Romanesque building erected in the late 19th century, the works – five sculptures made of filigree steel – examine the contrast between the prison’s richly detailed gratings and its socially de-individualized interior. Their minimalist severity is counterbalanced by smaller, polished bronze sculptures of the closely regulated personal items inmates are allowed to have with them – make-up utensils, tobacco, pens and envelopes, for example. These sculptures monumentalize mundane objects into lucky charms. Here again, Bool stages a conversation between contrasting views.

“Gaza Zebra”, a photogram diptych, was created by means of a collage of positive and negative transparent foils placed on the photographic paper, producing the image through the direct exposure of the collage on the photographic paper. The negative foils picturing one white donkey and one black donkey are overlapped and sliced, creating the illusion of two zebras. At the same time, fine contours of the Scotch tape used for the collage cover the entire picture with a pattern and traces of the chemical developer can be discerned, an indication of how the image was constructed.  This work is based on a true event: two irreplaceable zebras in a zoo located in the Gaza Strip starved to death, prompting the zookeepers to dye black stripes onto two white donkeys – a novel alternative. This particular piece addresses Bool’s exploration of material processes, which reveal the complexity that lies on the surfaces of things.

Shannon Bool was born in Comox, BC and currently lives and works in Berlin. Bool attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver and the Cooper Union in New York, and graduated from the Staedelschule in Frankfurt. She has had solo exhibitions at the Bonner Kunstverein, Germany (2011), and the Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst Bremen, Germany (2010).  Bool’s work is currently on view in the exhibition Made In Germany Zwei at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover. Earlier this year, a monograph of her work, Inverted Harem, was published by DISTANZ Verlag. Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt and the Lenbachhaus, Munich, as well as numerous private collections, including the Saatchi Collection, London.