BOY + GIRL = BOYGIRL
May 3, 2001
By Joseph Bergel
boygirl is the hybrid brainchild of Andrew Wright and Melissa Day—two artists who have been sharing a studio space for the last two years. It’s a pink wall next to a blue wall—an indirect collaboration between two different ways of see-ing and representing the world around them. This context is best explained in a brief paragraph from their invite which stares that "While they maintain sepa-rate and distinct practices, each has become aware of mutual fields of inquiry: gender, the gaze, the decorative and issues related to scale and technolo-gy. Works by each artist are intermingled to reveal their common territory and to contrast their different approaches. Visitors are invited to view this informal exhibition and to engage with the artists in an ongoing discussion about their work in progress."
Without getting trapped into an ‘us vs. them’ mentality (or a heated debate over the fact that ‘boy’ comes before the word ‘girl’ on the invite) each artist has simply chosen to present viewers with various works in progress. From such presupposition it can be said that this exhibition successfully challenges each viewer to investigate not only how we interpret a work of art — but also when, where and why. That is to say that this strategy presents us with one vocabulary (ours) alongside another’s languages (theirs).
On one side of the room (the pink wall) Melissa Day presents us with large colour canvases which have been paint-ed with the latest store bought colours from Martha Stewart’s 2001 paint palette. These post—minimalist paint-ings walk a wonderfully fine line between being both enigmatic and highly specific. In other words, a bland and brown rectangle is also a 1 x 5 foot sample of G-15 Weimaraner. Whether or nor this is an indirect statement regard-ing the giving of names as being a ‘male’ gesture, this work holds us accountable for our descriptions and resulting depen-dencies for the word ‘decorative’ — and perhaps femininity in general.
In the blue corner, we are introduced to the recent work of Andrew Wright. His pieces often function through a methodology of ‘re—interpretation’: one where war is re-evaluated through the flattening of lead toy soldiers onto drawing paper or, the sky above a gallery is projected (via a pinhole in the gallery roof) onto a mural sized piece of light sensitive paper only to be developed and shown at a later date. The short-term viewer might tend to categorize this strategy as nothing more than an empirical exploration into the world around us (a male scientist at work). However someone willing to spend a genuine time with the work will usually come to the realization that his use of process is also, a critique of process whereby he chooses to leave hierarchy aside in the pursuit of further understanding
In a sometimes blatant but often indirect manner, these artists have left each viewer the obligation to open up the dreaded discussions of gender, roles, responsibilities, rights, and or other methods of evaluation. Thus, the pre-text of ‘boygirl’ becomes nothing more then a preface to summarize our codes of understanding — in relation to other forms of being, and opposites.
What is clear is that this exhibition does not attempt to solve the world’s ‘gender roles’ and ‘woes’ entirely on its own. Rather, we have been presented with a unique opportunity to view the distinct languages of two artists working in close proximity. Instead of putting words and other interpretive thoughts into our mouths they have wished for nothing more than each viewer to build their own personal lexicon of possibilities when actively engaging in their work. Perhaps during this experiment each viewer will also be asked to carry out their own versions of ‘cross pollination’ — one which will hopefully end up yielding future ‘boygirls’ and also ‘girlboys’.