Speculative Pentimenti: Painting in an Age of Endarkenment
May 5 – 26, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 7-9 pm
We are living through a dark age. An age of, if you like, endarkenment—and I don’t necessarily mean that negatively. The world is aflood with dark psychic fluid, everything’s stained with it. – Michael Ventura
Working within the framework of our 2012 research theme of phantom worlds and fueled by our long-held belief that all human activities leave behind a visual trace, the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICI) is proud to present Speculative Pentimenti, a visual exploration of contemporary society presented through the work of artist and longtime ICI associate Sande Sisneros.
Marrying the detail of Northern Renaissance landscape painting and the immersive and dramatic lighting changes of the theater, Speculative Pentimenti uses visual narratives to express the hidden politics of a world that lies beyond our immediate realm of vision. Using light-sensitive pigments and inverted lighting and optics within the display space, large-scale oil paintings of uninhabited landscapes and disjointedly dramatic skies give way to a tracery of haunting visual narratives that reveal hidden “realities” lurking just below the painted surfaces. Here, a once serene ocean becomes a cesspool of trash while an uninhabited poppy field suddenly turns to menacing scene of war. These ghostly speculations appear in the dark to relay their messages, but then fade back into oblivion when the light comes back on. Both stages or “worlds” are ever present but viewers can never completely see both at the same time thus entangling the two in the visual centers of our brains and the shadow of our memories.
It is through this performative nature that the works express the artist’s true intention, to inspire change through the use of inventive pentimenti. In the world of forms, pentimenti (Italian for remorse or change) evoke x-rays, night vision, and the visual traces of hallucinogens while in art history their study is a recuperative act, a look back to a painting’s origins or an artist’s first intentions. Here, Sisneros uses these ghostly structures to look ahead, to imagine a future where the hidden politics of the world no longer lie beyond our immediate realm of vision but rather become glowingly apparent.
The duality of these images question what we see and (more importantly) what we often times don’t see or choose not to see. Is seeing really believing? Are truth and perception the same? And equally, what are the boundaries of our existence? In exploring these questions, viewers are left to form their own answers and reveal some form of “light” from the “darkness.”
Sande Sisneros is an internationally exhibited, self-taught artist whose works are featured in prominent private collections around the world. Over the course of her career, Sisneros’ works have challenged our connections to sight, memory, nature and the unknown. Speculative Pentimenti brings these elements together to further engage the limits of our reality.
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