Annette Cords and Becky Brown
July 22 – August 22, 2021
Opening Event*: Saturday, July 24, 1–6 pm
Dream-Restart-Experience is a two-person exhibition featuring the work and collaborations of Annette Cords and Becky Brown. The artists met in the Open Sessions program at The Drawing Center in 2015 and have been collaborating ever since. For both, text is integrated into complex visual compositions: Cords’s tapestries interlace traditional weave structures with urban mark-making and found text. Brown’s paintings give physical presence to artifacts of online/on-screen culture, while questioning their value. For this exhibition, Cords and Brown have collaborated on a new wallpaper design that incorporates their alphabets for PS122, which are displayed in vinyl lettering on the gallery windows, connecting inside and outside, and welcoming people back.
The exhibition title, Dream-Restart-Experience, is a literal English translation of the German compound word Traumneustartversuch—describing the effort to continue a dream one had just before waking up. The sudden shift from one reality to another and the impossibility of shifting back recalls pandemic conditions last spring. As we now wake up from that nightmare and “restart” our lives, we face personal and public choices about what should return and what could change. In the spirit of restarting, the artists created new alphabets for PS122, with the hope that reimagining letters can breathe new energy and meaning into familiar language.
Cords and Brown drew and painted letterforms by hand, with multiple styles and degrees of legibility—voluptuous curves, robotic angles, and characters derived from architectural and decorative motifs on the building’s façade and surrounding iron fence. Alphabets are displayed in vinyl lettering on the gallery windows, referring to the building’s history as a public school—the origin of learning one’s ABCs. This history coexists with the present, as letters are used to spell out PS122’s rotation of identifying P- and S-words: public, school, painting, performance, and space.
Inside the gallery, the new wallpaper design incorporates their alphabets, riffing on these five words, and introducing opposites. Both artists have explored relationships between opposing words, and these pairs and collections now become sample texts for their alphabets and sparks for elaborating meaning. Within an immersive wallpaper environment, Cords and Brown present works adapting similar opposite words in their individual languages of fabric and thread, paper, and paint.
As the wallpaper reframes and punctuates artwork, multiple experiences coexist: the pleasure of accumulation and the desire for structure; understanding and misinterpretation; reading and seeing. Dream-Restart-Experience contains two levels of awkward, accidental poetry: what is “lost in translation” from one language to another, and the merging of multiple words to convey a single, if nuanced, phenomenon—or a “transformation” from one state to another, and a “collaboration” between words. Cords and Brown commit to both transform and collaborate, embracing the awkward and the poetic—all necessary practices and conditions for our collective restart.
* Mask-wearing is required for entry and social distancing is strongly recommended to minimize the risks to our audience and staff.