Tucked between neighborhood homes on West Carroll Avenue is the Julius Caesar. The brick-and-vine building housed the opening reception of Holly Murkerson’s Landlocked Blue. Despite the heat of that July Sunday, quite a crowd was gathered and lingering outside at the close of the show.
After weaving through white painted hallways with the occasional velvet couch, I found Holly’s exhibit. In her artist’s statement, Holly speaks to the permanence of the physically written word as well as the ephemeral nature of naming, language, and orientation. Holly explained that the title Landlocked Blue initiated from this orientation and location. Being in the Midwest, and having grown up in Florida surrounded by the ocean, the fresh-water lake doesn’t seem to compare: “There is this knowledge that I can’t escape; that it is not salt water and that it is limited and bordered on all sides, not quite the same vastness that I can imagine when looking out across the ocean.” She also mentioned a reference to Odysseus’ inland travel, where it is prophesied that he will become lost once he loses sight of the coastline.
The space of Julius Caesar was landlocked itself – with no windows, existing within a larger space, there is no reference to the outside world. Holly explained that the colors on the walls reference the cardinal directions, so that there is the possibility of finding orientation within the space. The bottom half of all walls were painted white, with the top halves painted subtle colors. Two adjacent walls were the lightest green while the other two were the faintest blue.
The square print on the wall opposite the door was a photograph of what seemed to be a “landscape of dust and excess”, as referenced in the artist’s statement. The focus relied within a strip of middle-ground, where pieces of glass, string, and dust could be discernible. Above this was a strip of lighter tonality, with the whole top and bottom flanked by grey tones, creating blurred forms of strips of tones. Lined up with the lightest horizontal strip of the prints was the slight separation of color on the walls, as this intentional mounting rendered a fluidity of viewing. On the adjacent wall was another print that seemed to be a rectangular expansion of this square one, moving outward horizontally, giving more width to the image (92×40). When I spoke to Holly about the prints, about how they seemed expansive, hazy landscapes, she told me that the photographs were taken on her studio floor, with the use of a mirror and tube fluorescent light half-painted in black.
Parallel to the larger, rectangular print was a rigid yet fragile hand-built red oak writing table with thin legs and a shiny metallic blue tabletop mat, atop which were stacked blue mirror boards. The top blue mirror board was engraved with white lines that created a grid made up of tiny squares. Holly alludes to ancient Greek epigraphy but with a contemporary minimalist take on the gridded writing table, stating: “The writing table becomes a location that is once immediate and tangible, yet opens out to a vast landscape.” Looking down onto this engraved plate gave the illusion that the drawn grid went down through the stacked boards, giving a sense of the infinite.
Having shown up at the tail end of the show, I was able to experience Landlocked Blue solo. With the heat came a silence apart from the murmur of a fan down the hall, and I found that the ephemeral landscape prints, the colors of the walls, and the meticulous grid and writing table rendered something soothing. As Murkerson said, “You may find yourself more like Odysseus in this moment, who, in the end, was more comfortable at sea”.
Holly Murkerson’s Landlocked Blue will be showing at the Julius Caesar every Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 and by appointment from July 31, 2011 – August 28, 2011.