Reading a Wave

Yuji Agematsu, Irma Blank, Andrea Büttner, Michael Dean, Jimmie Durham, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Luigi Ghirri, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Peter Hujar, Ellsworth Kelly, Luisa Lambri, Liz Larner, Tony Lewis, Fausto Melotti, Ron Nagle, Rivane Neuenschwander & Cao Guimarães, Silke Otto-Knapp, Lisa Ponti, Charles Ray, Paul Thek, Luc Tuymans, David Weiss

In his story “Reading a Wave,” Italo Calvino’s protagonist Mr. Palomar is confronted with a dilemma. As he stands on the beach and tries to follow the progress of a single wave as it moves toward the shore, he is frustrated time and time again by the inherent dynamism of its form as it appears, its energy wanes, and then it disappears and dissolves into the following swell. Try as he might, Mr. Palomar (whose name cleverly evokes that of the famous astronomical observatory) cannot seem to grasp or appreciate the poetic potential of things that are transitory, transient, fleeting, passing, short-lived, momentary, temporary, impermanent, evanescent, or fugitive. In other words, Mr. Palomar isn’t able to embrace the value of what we might term “the ephemeral.”

Each of the twenty-two artists on view in Palomar’s inaugural exhibition Reading a Wave in their own way provides a meditation on the poetic power of the ephemeral, the surprising gravity of the transitory, or what Calvino once called a spirit of “lightness.” As Calvino suggested, “It might be said that two opposing literary tendencies have competed over the centuries: one that seeks to make language a weightless element that hovers over things like a cloud, or, better, a fine dust, or, better still, a magnetic field; another that seeks to imbue language with the weight and thickness and concreteness of objects and bodies and sensations.”

Working across a wide range of media including sculpture, painting, photography, drawing, and film, these artists operate within Calvino’s weightless magnetic field of lightness by championing the minor over the monolithic and spaces of transition over any kind of established boundaries. Reading a Wave looks at the ways each of these artists uses everyday gestures, whispers, glances, and a network of correspondences to create constellations of cosmic moments that overlap and resonate with one another, the world, and the viewer.

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