May 5 - June 3, 2023 Opening reception: Friday, May 5 6-8pm
Freight + Volume is pleased to present Phantom Thread, an exhibition of recent paintings by Paige Beeber. Phantom Thread will be on view at 39 Lispenard St, New York, NY 10013. The opening reception will be on Friday, May 5th, 2023 | 6:00 - 8:00 PM. This is Beeber’s third solo exhibition with the gallery.
Paige Beeber’s recent paintings extend her commitment to mark-making as a metaphor for psychological and social transformations. With a grammar of marks that reference weaving and needlepoint, Beeber shows how small, diligent acts of making and repairing—which are often gendered feminine—can be even more heroic and romantic than gratuitous acts of violence. Beeber points to sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1986 essay “The Carrier-Bag Theory of Fiction,” in which Le Guin asks her readers to reimagine stories of female-oriented “gathering” with as much life-or-death drama as male-oriented “hunting.” Instead of writing “with my spear, I slay this bear,” she wonders, why not tell “a gripping tale of how we wrested the wild oats from their husks”? Beeber takes up this challenge in her paintings, producing bold compositions filled with high drama and risk but with none of the clichés of Action Painting.
Beeber created some of the works in this show after hand-cutting her older paintings into thin strips, which became the raw material for the new work. Although the process of cutting was painstaking, she found it cathartic, which inspired her to host an ongoing series of “cutting parties” at her studio where woman-identified and nonbinary artists could come together and cut paintings—hers or theirs—in a safe, welcoming atmosphere. In addition to being a therapeutic act on its own, cutting up old paintings is a potent metaphor for breaking old patterns of behavior or cutting free of toxic relationships. Beeber’s cutting parties are a form of social sculpture that both complements her painting practice and grounds it. In today’s highly individualistic, career-focused art world, Beeber returns to the space of collectivist artisinal production to find healing for herself and others.
Beeber’s approach to art-making is also informed by the philosopher Jacques Derrida’s discussion of painting—peinture—as pointure, a French word meaning “pointing” but also “puncturing” and “stitching.” Each time an artist paints a mark, it both punctures the picture plane and helps stitch it together—all the while “pointing” back on itself. Beeber’s marks operate in precisely this way. They simultaneously rupture and unify her layers of underpainting, while at the same time calling attention to their own constructedness. Even when Beeber’s paintings contain figural elements, they are radically anti-illusionistic. The emphasis is always on her own acts of making: cutting, collaging, and painterly “stitching.” Whether large or small, there is strength and precision in every mark she makes, and nothing is ever hidden. Each decision, each moment of inspired brilliance or existential dread, is there on the surface for us to see. By turns fast and slow, rough-hewn and meticulous, her marks weave tales of patient effort and epic adventure, of self-discovery and communal healing.