"Lathe of Heaven" 1/19 - 2/18/24


Works by Alisa Bones, Nate Flagg, and Dani Levine
On view at My Pet Ram from January 19th through February 28th, 2024.

“Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss.”

Ursula K. Le Guin begins her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven with an image of a delicate being subjected to forceful environmental patterns. The book’s title derives from a mistranslation of Chuang Tzu; lathes, it turns out, had not yet been invented when the text was written in the fourth century BCE. Yet the mistranslation opens opportunities to imagine the world scraped bare, rewrought in version after version. George Orr, the novel’s protagonist, has dreams that come true—not as prophetic foretelling, but as material reconfigurations of reality that alter memory, politics, and the laws of physics.

These three artists produce their own potent currents of physical and conceptual reverb that reconfigure language and material. Alisa Bones’ paintings resonate sight into liquidity, dissolving attachments to singular forms and positing painting as a process in motion. Because each half of the paintings is made on a different day, with different weather, precise replication never occurs. Nate Flagg’s drawings and sculptures ask the viewer to recognize perception as recurring instances of material distinctiveness connected by memory. Flagg’s alphabetic forms and linguistic inventions, hidden among mark and pattern, reflect the everyday slippages language endures from one usage to the next. Dani Levine’s works repeat forms to distort language and color, extracting formal and linguistic patterns across multiple iterations of her shaped canvases. Variously willful and menacing, every painting sows seeds that propagate the others. Each artist’s work dislocates visual and linguistic form through strategies of replication and translation.

Much like Le Guin’s jellyfish tugged by the ceaseless tides, we are all dislocated and distorted by our surroundings. Even the consistency of our bodily form is a misperception. We are memories of our selves—wave-flung drifted beings, mistranslated protozoa. These artists attempt to work out the consequences of this instability. They do so by engaging, not resisting, swimming with the constant churn.

- Brian Leahy, January 2024