Preview Massachusetts: Remainder Remains
Art New England
The Gallery Issue - September/October 2019
Remainder Remains: Elizabeth Alexander and Tatiana Flis
by Cerys Wilson
Elizabeth Alexander and Tatiana Flis’s joint exhibition Remainder Remains at Fountain Street is a reunion of sorts. The pair met while studying sculpture at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where they discovered a shared affinity for deconstructing domestic tropes through collage, drawing and sculpture. Since graduating, both have shown individually and in groups (Alexander’s mother Sarah, a core artist at Fountain Street invited Flis and Alexander’s husband Todd Bowser, a sound artist, to exhibit with her in 2017), but never together. Until now. Highlights include Alexander’s six Rearranging the Gardner collages, made while a guest artist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 2015 (with accompany sound by Bowser), and a new mural-sized wall drawing by Flis.
Alexander’s collages, perhaps better understood as decollages, are products of extraction. Working from photographs of the museums’s interior courtyard and galleries, Alexander asked visitors to cut an object from the scene, which she then rearranged into patterns taken from the Dutch Room’s wallpaper: “Some got a little overzealous [with the X-ACTO blade]” recalls Alexander. Like a fine Swiss cheese, The Blue Gallery is stripped of its artwork; mirrors reflect the void. The connection between the heist of 1990, when 13 works from the museum were stolen, and the museum’s decision to leave the empty frames in situ is easily drawn. In Courtyard, the white of the mat beneath transforms the cutouts of statuary into floating apparitions, furthering an eerie sense of detachment.
Flis’s drawings feel equally detached from living: fantastical and otherly, while still grounded in (or tethered to) a sense of place. Influenced by Slavic folklore and tales of Baba Yaga (a crone whose house, hidden deep in the woods, stands on chicken legs0, the series also reflects the personal: Flis’s former home in Detroit, the salt box architecture of New England where she now lives. Each of the lone structures perches on the edge of an abyss: A volcano erupts from the roof of one house; dark clouds brew above another. As with the Gardner series, the landscape is at once familiar–a house, a museum–while also unknowable, abstraction and unsettling.