- Installation Views
- Scroll Drawings
- Artist Books
- Quoted Comments
- Below are excerpts from catalogs, reviews and articles about my work.
Containing the Agitation
(This is an essay from exhibition catalog for, rendering/ abrading/ redacting/ repairing, at FiveMyles in Brooklyn, NY 11/26/22 - 1/15/23)
Looking at Anne Gilman’s drawings I think about hearing sirens. Having spent most of my life in New York City I’ve experienced this innumerable times. First there’s the distant, auditory disturbance, and then the cadence becomes recognizable as it gallops toward me, and then the sense of being overwhelmed, and the lingering tang of fear as the sound fades away. There’s a crisis, a life on the verge of oblivion, a hole opening up in the stratosphere, a void beckoning. I feel able to contemplate these things at a remove when I experience Gilman’s expanded scroll drawings because these pieces act as records of her processing the precarity of the last few years here in the United States.
Take her drawing “Flashpoint,” begun in 2020 and finished in 2021. An excerpt of the handwritten script it contains reads: “I am so angry. it is a horrible rage energy and I am fed up and tired and see the tiredness as a way to deflect the anger.” What was she angry about? Well, almost everything: the pandemic collapse, the killing of guiltless civilians by police officers, the raging California wildfires, the militarized responses to the Black Lives Matter protests.
Sometimes Gilman uses the script to document her personal responses to loss, distraction, disaster, and at other times she uses it to articulate the problems she encounters making the drawing itself. In “Flashpoint” these strategies coincide. She says out loud to herself: “the agitation was supposed to be contained within the masked off section.” Yes, the BLM protests were supposed to be kept in check by law enforcement officials; they were supposed to be confined to public streets and squares, tamped down by a sense of propriety. And isn’t that sense of decorum what typically keeps women’s anger limited and hidden from public view? Above a drift of red-tinged smoke like a cloud of fire, a section demarcated by red tape features stippled and repetitive graphite marks made by a pencil so troubled that it has torn through the paper.
Yet Gilman doesn’t collapse into nihilism, and she isn’t indiscriminately spendthrift with her vexation. In this solo exhibition, rendering/ abrading/ redacting/ repairing, she channels these feelings into world building.
One of the first things Gilman does when she begins work on a large-scale drawing, is rule the surface. On these reams of 60-inch-wide Saunders Waterford hot press paper she carefully marks out lines that will govern her use of the compositional space. She delineates areas for her handwritten script, leaving other expanses open for her unruly, abstract drawing, or for her version of graphite rubbings that are less about accurately tracing a surface and more about intuitively responding to it. She begins the work by creating a controlled ground so that her environment isn’t completely chaotic. As she has said to me, in reference to the 2021 piece “Landing,” “The text on top is about the lack of control we have over certain aspects of our lives ... I was looking at ways to introduce order into the space.”
From these less precarious clearings, she pushes the drawing into the three-dimensional world. To “Flashpoint” Gilman has added a Yahrzeit memorial candle placed on an adjacent wooden platform. For “A specific un-erasable presence” and “The rage exists, whether you see it or not ...” (both 2022) she has made sculptural elements that are consonant with the drawn shapes and objects. A curlicued line, formed of clay has seemingly insinuated itself out of the drawing onto dry land. And in the other, a finely rendered glass piece asserts that the artist can and must make something precious and fragile despite all the forces arrayed against that which is delicate and tenuous.
The agitation was supposed to be contained within the masked off section. It hasn’t been, just as the sounds of emergency are never contained by the vehicle emitting them or the citizens that hear them. They overflow. But Gilman’s response to the surfeit of crisis isn’t desperation. The art here has metabolized the rage, has been transmuted by a pencil driven by Gilman’s hand to carve out a separate peace in this distressed and troubled land.
EXQUISITE SCROLLS THAT UNRAVEL IMAGINARY JOURNEYS
Anne Gilman's super-sized scrolls feel like hand-drawn maps, perhaps charting a journey through a metaphysical region.
SARAH ROSE SHARP, HYPERALLERGIC
(This is an excerpt from a review in Hyperallergic of my solo exhibition, Up close/ in the distance/ now at Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center in September 2018.)
The show’s title, also the name of the two-sided free-hanging work that can be viewed in-the-round, “Up close / in the distance / now” (2018), underscores the plurality of these pieces, which chart both physical and temporal locations. Some other titles hint at locales or geologic features, many of which could also be interpreted as internal states: “Fault line” (2016), “The place of possibility” (2016), “The dividing line” (2017), and small works like “Chasm” (2017) and “rugged terrain” (2017). Others bear more time-centric titles: “Out of the blue” (2016), “You might wait forever” (2018), and “Sundowning” (2018). Still others represent ambiguous places of connection, tension, and change: “Conflict of interest” (2018), “Synapse” (2016), and a five-piece series of works in orange, collectively titled “Boiling point” (2018). Just like a boiling point, Gilman’s pieces seem determined to pinpoint those ephemeral places where time meets internal and external conditions to produce a palpable change.
I am acutely receptive to work of this nature, but all of these factors seem instantly discernible in Gilman’s work without necessarily diving into the content of her extemporaneous texts. When one does, there is confirmation of her themes around time and place, but also error, perfection, and anxiety. Somehow, one doesn’t need to know the exact words to infer musing and doing-over in the visual language of Gilman’s instinctively constructed and carefully redacted works. Just as the non-text sections of her images are built up through a layering of materials, the text portions undergo a similar process of elucidation and complication. This dualism is powerfully effective in creating a sense of struggle to orient oneself amid an internal landscape. These instructions are instantly discernible, but remain unclear, and give one the sense of having found maps to nowhere and everywhere.
ANNE GILMAN / Under the Radar
ANN LANDI, VASARI21
(This is an excerpt from an article about my work and my process in Vasari21, June 15th 2020.)
Anne Gilman’s oversized scroll “drawings” unfurl across the floor, against walls, from the ceiling, and sometimes over tabletops with a graceful ease that belies their sometimes anguished or anxious content. I put drawings in quotes because there is so much more going on here than mere lines or notations against a paper ground—taped areas, primitive diagrams, redacted written contents, suggestions of landscapes, and other elements realized in graphite, ink, ballpoint pen, and paint...When she is writing, Gilman puts herself quite literally in the center of the work: she rolls out the paper and sits on top of it. “I want to be inside the work,” she says. “I want to close off other people’s ideas of what the work should or shouldn’t be, and the way for me to do that is to be immersed in the page.” Afterward she will go back and use graphite, colored pencil, or tape to cover up those portions that seem to her “redundant or unimportant.”
Ann Landi is a writer who launched Vasari21.com in 2015 after 20 years of writing about art for publications such as ARTnews, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times.
ANNE GILMAN’S DE-WORDED DRAWINGS
(This is an excerpt from the catalog produced in conjunction with my solo exhibition Descifrar: to decipher/decode/figure out at Instituto Cervantes in 2015.)
In her drawings, Anne Gilman seeks that immediate and primary encounter with thought and language, with memory, interpretation, and analysis. Observing the raw flow of her own thinking, she weaves in and out of two languages, consciously subjecting herself to the ambiguity of translation and the frequent insufficiency of words and their established meanings...During Gilman’s process, writing, drawing, and mark- making begin to inform and merge into one another, continually shifting shapes and intentions...chaos and order exist side by side, as do agitation and repose. Verbal and non-verbal realms meet in one present, unburdened by symbolism and regaining the unpredictable potential of pure form.
Sabine Russ is a writer and the managing editor of Bombmagazine.All images copyright of Anne Gilman 1990-2023. An icompendium Site