Allison Wade’s deft sculptural work is well known, but the exhibition “Know Better” at devening projects + editions, highlights the overlapping formal considerations between Wade’s sculptures and drawings. In both cases, Wade places an overarching concern on finding a balance between surface, material, and image.
In drawings like predicaments/possibilities: #2 (2016), Wade uses thin veils of gray wash to provide atmospheric tone, offering a range of visual textures from dry brushing to fluid, vaporous washes. These blocks of gray negative space provide a middle-tone body-shape that holds a database of thicker, darker, contour lines together. This database of contour lines bends and turns awkwardly to create clunky rectangles or closed geometric shapes. If not closed, they will often have one strong structural turn, implying a corner. The sculpture, Better left unsaid, mirrors this formal strategy, where a bent metal bar attaches to a wooden rod via a taut string, forming a large irregular rhomboid. The sculpture creates a frame for the emptiness of the gallery wall and echoes the title’s admonition for silence.
The gallery lights create subtle drop shadows that hint at the material behind the facades, showing both real space and implying the tonal depth one sees in the drawing’s gray washes. These little moments, while most apparent upon closer physical investigation, are not so noticeable from a distance. These are sculptures presented as pictures, assembled facades, with shallow relief. The assemblages don’t always directly imply a pictorial rectangle in space, however. When entering the gallery, the viewer only sees Know Better: Scenario #2 as a series of obliquely thin stacked objects. However, once situated directly in front of the sculpture’s facade, Wade’s forms have both a centripetal spatial force that pulls elements inwards into each other, and a centrifugal border that pushes out, creating a loose tableau. Perhaps this implied picture-like framing is established by the works thinness or the step-like bases upon which many of the Wade’s sculptural elements rest or lean. In this piece, horizontal marble pedestals sit against the upright verticality of irregular, painted wood shapes and resting on a shallow staircase bridging the gap between floor and wall. In another piece, Wade contrasts industrial pegboard against the organic veneer of wood grain, creating a compelling textual pattern that amplifies their material difference.
But perhaps the most obvious interconnection between the drawings and her sculptures is the use of color. She uses two middle-toned palettes (puce, army green, black and white in the sculptures and middle grays in the drawings) to pull disparate elements together by strategically repeating colors throughout the ‘pictorial fields’ to unify top and bottom, left and right, sculpture and surface.
“Know Better” reveals an obsessive drive to assemble and frame disparate, incongruent impulses into a mutual coherence. While the work balances out combinations of pleasingly juxtaposed surfaces and objects, there’s also a sense that the facades are incomplete, always amenable to being re-ordered or bent to present a new image. But there is an uneasy subtext to this show: titles to the work seem to hint at painful lessons learned, and the difficulty of attaining balance.
Allison Wade’s exhibition Know Better at devening projects + editions runs until October 15, 2016.