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Rachel Weiss: CounterMeasures

September 3, 2015 - October 3, 2015

Rachel Mica Weiss combines thread with the density of stone, cast forms, and wood constructions to create sculptures and site-specific installations. Her practice results in objects that are concerned with self-imposed barriers that explore the realities and illusions of tension and ease, physical and psychological space, restraint and freedom.

The title of the exhibition CounterMeasures refers to a method of action taken to counter or offset another. Weiss’ work demonstrates that finding poetic balance between adverse materials is not only possible, but desirable. She purposefully choreographs a “dance” between contradictory materials to generate harmony in their variance. To achieve this, the artist uses materials such as, hefty cast stone, cotton, tencel and raw maple wood, in opposition to hand-braided and chained leather and intricately woven ‘scaffolding.’ When grouped together, each of these materials form fluid partnerships, or negotiations, between artist, material, physical space and the boundaries set by each piece.

CounterMeasures occupies both the 301 Gallery and the Frame 301, featuring two site-specific, hand woven, string installations. Weiss developed each work in response to the architecture of the building, particularly focusing on the window panes.

In the Frame, Pivoted Planes(2015) transforms a narrow, storefront window into an augmented portal. With careful placement of each strand, Weiss constructs eight flying buttress. A series of massive, vertical masonry blocks are used to resist the lateral force by redirecting weight to the ground. Weiss consciously elects to contrast the perceived masculinity of masonry with the traditionally feminine craft of weaving.
Installed in the 301 Gallery’s windows, 3-Planed Vaultway (Locked and Crossed) uses “spice” bright red, indigo, and navy tencel (a natural man-made fiber) to slope and fade into one another. Weiss creates her own infrastructure by criss-crossing each cluster of pigments into soft architectural elements that reference pillars, screens, or trellises. Weiss’ ephemeral installation contradicts the intention of permanence associated with architecture. Again, the artist uses the pliancy and limitations of her materials to reveal the balance between two opposing forces, literally emphasizing the ‘softer side’ of a support structure.

Weiss’ sculpture and installation works are at home in the 301 Gallery. To some degree, the gallery itself reads like one of the artist’s cast objects. The building is full of character flaws that oddly work together. The concrete floor wears its age in cracks and dents, while the marred walls are relics of exhibition history. Both of these quirks oppose the sleek and polished “white cube.” Like the gallery floors, Fallen Portrait (2015) is an imperfect, decaying surface surrounded, literally, by refinement. Like two magnets drawn to one another by force, the red, cast rock is pulled down out of the frame and closer to its material counterpart. This moment realizes how intentional Weiss’ decisions are. CounterMeasures could ‘live’ in any gallery, but it speaks powerfully because it is housed in 301.

Weiss reaches beyond the bounds of possibility and weaves, casts, knots, and sculpts to resist limitations. While her work is a personal reflection on self-imposed barriers and hierarchies, we can see ourselves in each of these works, too. CounterMeasures is an invitation to question, explore and reimagine what is possible.