Evangeline AdaLioryn: Her Labyrinth| The American Baroque
5523 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90038
Saturday, March 30 at 6:00 PM 9:00 PM
Ends Apr 27, 2024
In the shadow of a total eclipse, the artist relies on echolocation to place herself. The sun has disappeared and the world grows colder, yet the darkness is circumscribed by a ring of light. For years, Evangeline AdaLioryn describes feeling as though she was “arriving at a banquet alone and seeing people dance together in different ways, in different lives.” Alienation from certain normative life experiences and sorrow over what was denied them in youth are common feelings among many trans women. The work presented in Her Labyrinth, the opening of which coincides with a solar eclipse, is meant to protect and celebrate the “walking echo” of the artist’s lost girlhood. AdaLioryn has set up this space as a banquet-cum-shrine. The moon moves away from the sun. It is a kind of dawn. A procession of blind animals act as guides through Her Labyrinth. Arranged in pairs, each animal listens and waits while guarding its twin. Wrapped in intricate sigils, they are imbued with divine protection. Vessels, a recurring motif in AdaLioryn’s work, appear here as a series of ritual-objects like candle holders and incense burners. The sigils seen in this collection are vessels too, repositories of memories that cannot be contained in language. Just as an eclipse must not be directly looked at for the threat of burning eyes, certain memories, radiant and dark, can only be invoked by looking away from them. Animals and mythological creatures coexist in the procession; memory does not distinguish between fantasy and what really happened. We remember what happened. We remember what didn’t happen. We remember what we wished had happened. We remember what will never happen as though it already has. Her Labyrinth is a celebration of the artist discovering herself in the precipitation of an evaporated dream. Gathering inspiration from early twentieth century Art Nouveau craft houses, AdaLioryn prioritized ornate and delicate beauty in her carefully developed symbolic language. Before rendering the sigils in three dimensions, she began each one as a hand drawn illustration, eschewing digital modeling in favor of the traditional method employed by Louis Tiffany and René Lalique. It was in this intimate early stage that the sigils were fortified with emotional memory and thus acquired their unique power. Iridescent pastels resemble sunrises over water, or the multicolored Favrile glass pioneered by Tiffany Studios. Soft, light, or even fading, the colors appear as a permanent haze surrounding each piece. “In my sadness, it’s a fight to bring any color to my work at all,” she says. Like private prayers, the colors are whispered though the will behind them is resolute. The formal beauty displayed in the sigils’ complex symmetry and the animals’ dreamy colors stands in triumphant opposition to feelings of defeat and isolation. The elegance of these pieces derives, in part, from their delicate containment of these kinetic emotional tensions. Here, the human form is abstracted but not absent. Instead of being represented as the material outline of a body, the arrangement of animals, vessels, and other objects constellates into a map of a young woman’s psyche. Throughout the collection appear two hippocampuses, a creature from Greek mythology that is half horse and half fish, after which the part of the brain responsible for memory is named due to its physical resemblance with a seahorse. The biological function of memory is reconfigured as literal myth. This inversion of representation from the rational to fantastic contests the impossibility of ‘lost time’, allowing for an unlived past to be redeemed by imagination. The sigils are also a psychic musical score. When their shapes are drawn on paper and performed, the sound created is the echo of an unspoken thought. Echolocation reveals the boundaries of an inner world as the artist searches for lost memories inside it. A hymn as well as elegy as well as aubade, the silent song guides her to the center of herself. Possibility is reflected off of the future and into the past. The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that a maze is full of false ends while a labyrinth leads each entrant to a fated center. Though twisted and confusing, the pathway of a labyrinth is singular; there is only one way through. A maze misleads. The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is the difference between honesty and deception. The journey through Her Labyrinth terminates in the discovery of oneself and, in the celebration of this discovery, healing contact with a phantom past. - Amber Later - The American Baroque The baroque is an art that—perhaps more than any other—depicts the philosophical dictum that wherever there is light, close behind follows the shadows. It is splendor under the clouds of decadence. It is an autumnal grandeur: an extravagance that belies the fact of death more than the dreams of youth. In his landmark four-volume study of artistic production, “The Social History of Art,” German art historian Arnold Hauser wrote “the Baroque … embraces so many ramifications of artistic endeavor … that it seems doubtful at first sight whether it is possible to reduce them all to a common denominator.” Something similar could be said about Contemporary Art as a historical epoch and American art as a regional tradition. Both possess a style of stylelessness. The American cultural identity is at root a mosaic of various distinct identities. So too with the baroque. Nonetheless Baroque art, like Contemporary Art, remains essentially distinguishable from other aesthetic paradigms. The Baroque came at a time of great social struggle; the Catholic Church was striving to reconsolidate political power on the continent of Europe following the catastrophic rupture of Protestantism. The art of the time has the air of deep contradictions. Here one finds a portrait set against a humble and simplified background in muted tones. Elsewhere the epic drama of the classical world is revived to shock and awe the audience. But all around there is the impression of sublime decadence. The pomp of the Church is embarrassing and yet is deployed to command moral obedience. In our own time, and in our own country, many resonances might be drawn out from this comparison. We too are reeling from a catastrophe of the social spirit. Already in this century the American psyche has suffered the catastrophes of 9/11, two humiliating military defeats, financial collapse, political meltdown, and finally the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet the American spirit seeks—much as the Catholic Church did in the era of the Baroque—to pick up the pieces of its identity and reaffirm its influence on the world stage. This broader social struggle for meaning will be expressed in the aesthetic exponents of our culture. The true consequences of these events for art will only be known by posterity. But the eccentricity of style and the ironical, ecclesiastical, or almost portentous tone strike a familiar tone for any American. Not only does each artist today seem to avoid adhering to a style shared with other artists, one might find a number of styles within the works of a single artist. This deeply postmodern attitude against a shared project echoes the fragmentary and multiform identity of the old European Baroque as does the overall atmosphere of intoxicating decadence. The word baroque is derived from a French word referring to an irregularly shaped pearl. What better way to express the continuity of discontinuity, the style of stylelessness, the ennui of exuberance, than this? We live in a baroque America. And this art is American Baroque. -Grant Edward Tyler
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