TIME IN THE TIME OF TIME
A window is a moving and permeable border, a liminal space perfect to perform the act of looking. Each one of these glass rectangles provides a way out of one’s own world, and into a different, unknown, yet shared one. For this reason, looking out of the window places us in a strange position: neither inside nor outside, but in-between. Our body is in one place, but our eyes and attention are directed to another, like a bird about to flight. People pass by, clouds advance pushed by the force of the passing hours and the sunset’s colour gradually gains space… Watching time go by from a window is like going to the cinema to watch an unscripted film filled with everyday moments and gestures.
The ceramic paintings of Kevin McNamee-Tweed (1984 Stanford, California), with their unique and irregular shapes, look like colourful scenes from such a film. The result of a layered process that can be understood as an expanded definition of drawing, they translate the artist’s interest in the long tradition and expressive possibilities of ceramics. Looking at them has the same feeling as looking at a room or a landscape for the very first time. Sometimes, they allow us to look outwards and others, they offer us a more intimate image of an interior known only in depth to the artist. Only by spending large amounts of time in a place it is possible to become familiar with it to the point of understanding its atmosphere, predicting the movement of light at a certain moment of the day, mapping the cracks on the walls and the silhouettes in the landscape. But isn’t this slow time for presence and contemplation constantly slipping through our fingers? Isn’t the rhythm of events around us pushing us towards fleetingness and speed?
The exhibition “Time in the time of time”, which is also Kevin McNamee-Tweed’s first project at L21 Gallery, reflects on these questions in the light of recent experiences that seem to be characteristic of our pandemic context. In this sense, it brings together a series of new drawings and ceramic paintings that are, as the artist puts it, “expressions of what this past year, in which time grew more difficult to relate to, has felt like.”1 A whole symbolic universe translates this experience and it abounds with representations of houses and interiors, windows and liminal spaces, paths leading to vanishing points or, perhaps, to getaway places…
In “Late Light (pouring)” the moon is like an open hole in the night and seems to pour its magical content into the landscape. But it is a different sphere that speaks to us of the constant flow of time: that of the clock, which Julio Cortázar once described as a small flowery hell, a chain of roses or a dungeon of air.2 In some cases, as in “Theatre (Clock / Wheels)”, it seems that the clocks give these works a sort of intrinsic duration, as if they could measure the time we spend looking at them in the exhibition room. They can also lead us to think about the arbitrariness of time:
“The clocks feature incoherent hour markings, and many have no hands. An arbitrary existential metric made even more arbitrary. They offer little bearing on reality, on the scenes depicted, but they’re present. There is freedom in illogical clocks perhaps.”3
Just as there is freedom in engaging with aesthetic uses of time that take us away from the productive rhythm. Maybe these works by Kevin McNamee- Tweed are also a kind of invitation towards a slower time that allows us to be more present, an antidote to speed. After all, on rare occasions, it seems possible for us to extinguish the fire of that flowery hell to which Cortázar referred.
1 Kevin McNamee-Tweed. Unpublished interview with the artist. April 2021
2 Cortázar, Julio. “Historias de cronopios y de famas”. Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 1995. Page. 12. (Cronopios and Famas, Spanish edition).
3 Kevin McNamee-Tweed. Unpublished interview with the artist. April 2021
Esmeralda Gómez Galera
Kevin McNamee-Tweed (b. 1984, Stanford, California) has received an MFA from the University of Iowa in 2020, and has a BFA from New York University (2008). He has a multifaceted studio practice for which drawing and humor are central: sometimes he draws on paper; at other times he incises a drawn line into clay, adds color with glazes and fires the clay to yield a ceramic painting; at other times he uses ink, a sheet of plexiglass and a sheet of paper to create monotypes; and at other times, he creates paintings that also incorporate drawn lines. Most of his works are modest in scale, often not much larger than a sheet of paper, but they have depth and weight.
His solo exhibitions include ‘Literature’, Steve Turner (Los Angeles, 2019); ‘Beret Debt’, Devening Projects (Chicago, 2018); ‘Already Not Yet’, Shrine Gallery (New York, 2018); ‘Little Hawk Field’, Rod Barton (London, 2017); ‘New Top Old Bottom’, Left Field (San Luis Obispo, 2017); and the Still House Group, New York (2016). His work has been included in group exhibitions including Three One Three Four, Brooklyn (2019), Steve Turner, Los Angeles (2019), Rizzutto Gallery, Palermo, Italy (2018), Shrine Gallery, New York (2018), Cabinet Printemps, Dusseldorf, Germany (2018), and Lane Meyer Projects, Aspen (2017).