Featured Artist: Erika Mahr

The drawings that accompany each sculpture are schematics of the original plans for the sculpture and are drawn after their completion. The large-scale pen and ink drawings investigate the dichotomy of the cerebral and emotive.

Opening November 3, Art Center Sarasota will present a fascinating exhibition in the galleries titled Material Matters: A Look at Medium and Method. Given the sheer breadth and depth of each work this exhibition is a must see. Participating artists include: Lauren Garber-Lake, John Westmark, Malaika Zweig, Erika Mahr, Leslie Robison and Jason Mitcham

1. What sort of art critic are you? Or, asked differently, who is your favorite art critic?

I would describe myself as a demanding critic, as we all should be. I expect for a piece to have a conversation with me, whether that be through a psychological or emotional experience. If a piece does not want to address me as a viewer then I fail to consider the work.

Diagonal by Erika Mahr

2. What role does history play in your work?

Because of the pluralist state of the artworld today, all artists have their own distinct historical lineage that influences their work. It seems impossible to avoid historical references within one’s work. The question is, or perhaps better stated, the dilemma is how do you take from the past and then move beyond it?

My own work directly addresses the concerns of the minimalists, in terms of form and visual language, but then departs into my own direction with the use of material, process, and intent. I am interested in the organic or human aspect of geometry and logic. Imperfections become welcomed rather than turning towards mechanical reproduction.

3. Are there any features of your work that are discomforting, for yourself or your viewer?

Perhaps physically painful at moments when making the work, but no, the work itself is not discomforting. I am invested in the work being inviting to the viewer, it asks them to come take a closer look.

365 Pages by Erika Mahr

4. How did you arrive at the structure of your work?

I am interested in what happens between the lines of a drawing. I imagine the possibility of squeezing myself between the lines of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing and looking out through the drawing. There is something that happens within that space, a sense of time, a sense of static. I conceptualize each of my sculptures as a two-dimensional line drawing. Each line is cut out on a separate sheet of paper allowing for each line to then occupy actual space.

5. How do you see the societal role of the artist evolving?

I think at one time artists were viewed as pioneers, exploring new territories and paving the way. Today artists in general have become one of the masses, privately making their work in hopes for it to one day enter the conversation of the art world. We of course still have mega art super stars, born out of the image of Andy Warhol. But they no longer serve the role as pioneer, rather they have become more like a fashion icon. I am more interested in the artist alone in their studio, sincerely questioning what they are making and why they bother making it.

Detail of Uproot, Pen and Ink on Paper

6. One of the most complicated aspects of being an art maker is the “Life Work” balance: making important decisions on when to start and when to stop and where to separate things. Do you have any advice for other artists, based on your own methodology, on how to balance a life’s work?

This proves to be the most difficult obstacle for any young artist. I would hardly claim to have mastered this myself. I have gone through a number of transitions while in New York, each one slowly improving my ability to make art and sustain my practice. My best advice is to realistically recognize what your goals as an artist are, then you can begin to adjust your life around this. I myself have tried to avoid any full-time jobs to support myself. Having multiple part-time jobs have aloud me to leave work where it belongs. The moment I decided that time is more valuable than money to me, I freed my mind to be able to move forward in my practice.

Combining geometric forms with arduous drawing processes, my work challenges the notion of logic and geometry as being cold and mechanical. The work explores the organic quality that can be found within systemized logic. The mark making process, whether additive or subtractive, creates imperfections that would otherwise be absent within a mechanical process. The hard-edged minimal geometry becomes softened through these imperfections, and the logical space becomes more accessible to the viewer.

Unsettled by Erika Mahr

Artist Statement

Sculptures

The paper sculptures investigate geometry, space, repetition and time. On each page of the stack, a shape is cut using an x-acto knife. On each subsequent page the shape changes slightly in size or position. When stacked, the shapes form a 3 dimensional negative space. Within this geometric cavity, the viewer experiences not a spatial void, but rather a narrative of both movement and time. With each page being visible, a “simultaneous narrative” is formed, allowing the viewer to experience the entire narrative at once. The softness of the black paper and slight imprecision of the cutting process creates a warm and contemplative architectural space rather than a sterile environment associated with minimal form.

The drawings that accompany each sculpture are schematics of the original plans for the sculpture and are drawn after their completion. They are a visual representation of the conceptualization of each piece.

Descending Grid by Erika Mahr

Drawings

The large-scale pen and ink drawings investigate the dichotomy of the cerebral and emotive. Each begin with a small sketch based off of a momentary emotion. These drawings are then broken down with a system of logic, reconstructed, and enlarged onto a quarter inch hand-drawn grid. Each square of the grid is systematically filled with repetitive lines to recreate the small sketch on a much larger scale. The final drawing consists of hundreds of thousands of these lines. The mark-making process and large scale of the paper present the viewer with both the micro and the macro, allowing for dual experiences of the cerebral and emotive.

For more information, please view Erika’s personal website: www.erikamahr.com