The world is going paperless: paperless books, paperless office, paperless currency. The nostalgia for paper is already strong, and it’s nice to know there are artists who will always keep paper alive. The Paper Works Refolded exhibition, curated by Heather Bowling at the Brea Gallery, brings together such artists.
This is an exhibition of the possibilities of paper. The works range from the very ornate and whimsical to the more abstract and minimal. There are works which one would expect to see such as origami animals and paper flowers, but at grand master level. While these pieces will delight many visitors with their sheer beauty and mastery of craft, other pieces in the exhibition which treat paper in ways unimagined before will leave visitors in wonder.
In the first area of the exhibition there is something familiar, comfortable, something that exists in distant childhood memories, cardboard. Our collective experience with cardboard is perhaps why Kiel Johnson’s sculptures are so well loved. While many of us only played with cardboard as children, Johnson has worked with the material obsessively. His sculptures show no pretensions and reveal this humble material in all its nakedness.
Towards the center of the gallery, we find some works that feel less familiar. One of these works is “The Fountainhead” (No. 4 in 4) by Alexis Arnold. It is an actual copy of the Ayn Rand novel encrusted with borax crystals. The piece sits on a pedestal in the middle of the gallery looking like a forbidden dessert. There are a few other crystal encrusted books by Arnold in the exhibition, but the others don’t look quite as delicious as “The Fountainhead.”
The two pieces in the exhibition which stand out the most treat paper in the simplest way. They are Camilla Taylor’s “The Order of Things” and “Lock.” They represent paper in its more natural state, as pieces stacked together. The orderliness of these paper arrangements along with Taylor’s characteristic monochromism give these pieces a monastic air. They are hung near the entrance of the gallery, and in their quiet way, they announce the exhibition to the visitor.
Walking through the circuitous layout of the gallery, the visitor has a chance to come around and see “The Order of Things” and “Lock” again. Those who love paper will savor this second viewing of these pieces. It’s like saving dessert for last. These two pieces with their repeated layers, columns and stacks, are a meditation in paper.