Diana Shpungin’s body of work re-imagines standard notions of drawing practice through painstakingly made hand-drawn animation. For her solo exhibition Bright Light / Darkest Shadow the artist displays nearly ten years of hand-drawn animation works consisting of literally thousands of original source drawings shown in three distinct gallery spaces of the museum.
The works on exhibition consider numerous dichotomies, –both literally and figuratively, between light/darkness, hope/despair, failure/triumph, memory/forgetfulness, nature/humanity, breakage/repair, loss/longing, public/private and the tangible/metaphysical as components reliant on one another, and in an optimistic quest for empathy across identity lines in the face of uncertainty in our current precarious times. Shpungin often refers to some of her animation works as purposely failed animations, never successfully animating the inanimate subject born from memory or the metaphorically static world of photography. The work involves an incredibly laborious process of on site filming, sound recording, photography, drawing and then editing hundreds of graphite pencil source drawings.
On view in total are seventeen unique hand-drawn animation works accompanied by a selection of source drawings. In the largest gallery space is a selection of works relating to the artists fascination with the seashore, Disappearing Act, Figure and Ground and Reoccurring Tide. As well as nine works born from Shpungin’s previous project, the monumental Drawing Of A House (Triptych) which involved hand coating an entire abandoned rectory in graphite pencil and projecting animations in selected windows of the home, including; The Vanishing Point, A Million To One (For Blue Velvet) and shown as a two-video compilation A Smudge May Well Be An Apparition with A Draft (For Felix) and exhibited as a related dual-channel work; The Dust In The Light (The Pessimist) and The Light In The Dark (The Optimist) and shown as a three-video compilation; A Severed Limb Persuaded To Return, Chronicle Of A Now Empty Space and Knowing How To Break Glass Quietly (The Ascetic).
In a small enclosed room three videos consisting of works relating to Shpungin’s deceased father. Until It No Longer is based on a photographic death portrait taken by the artist, this would be the last image taken of her father. Shpungin decided to draw the portrait over and over randomly over several years until she became somewhat anesthetized to the image. His View depicts the view from Shpungins’ fathers’ burial site. A figure enters and exits the frame in a gesture of both honor and resentment. The animation work Endless Ocean is based on a family photograph chosen by the artist as an homage to Roland Barthes notion of his mother’s essence in the text Camera Lucida. Here we see the artists’ father at the beach, confidently wearing a Speedo and tightly grasping onto a seagulls leg in a playful yet unconsciously sadistic manner.
And lastly, Shpungin has also created two entirely new works for the exhibition, which are shown as a related dual-channel projection installation and projected on large sheets of drawing paper floating in a dark space. These new undertakings are at once the most elaborate and experimental works Shpungin has made to date. To Get Out Of The Way ambiguously illustrates the bond between the human/natural world and is a contemplation of the art historical figure in the landscape, but with a wry present-day gaze. Figures in landscapes, proceed and recede in vast diverse settings meditating on the idea of control and lack there of in our natural surroundings in the wake of global environmental catastrophes. The projection depicts vast hybrid desert, tropical, forest, ocean and other landscapes with silhouettes of figures, literally and figuratively, blacking out and reclaiming the scenery as a cyclical metaphor of human intervention, both positively and negatively, of what the future could be. On the adjacent side of the elongated room, To Extinguish The Sun depicts an abstracted celestial sky scape that fluctuates through numerous environmental changes. The many drawings were exposed to light, water, fire, puncturing and generalized destruction creating a flickering jump shot effect. The failed ending occurs when a shadow puppet hand enters and pinches the sun in a metaphorical yet futile attempt to obliterate the universe.
A full color had-cover catalog will accompany the exhibition with poignant essays by Lisa Freiman and Ginger Shulick-Porcella.
Diana Shpungin lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and was born in Latvia’s seaside capital of Riga under Soviet rule, immigrating as a child to the U.S. where her family settled in New York City. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY and is currently an Assistant Professor at Parsons: The New School for Design in New York City. Shpungin’s work has been exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions in both national and international venues including: The Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, NY; Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY; Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL; Locust Projects, Miami, FL; Futura Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic; Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; Invisible Exports, New York, NY; Marc Straus Gallery, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; and Site:Lab, Grand Rapids, MI. Shpungin was awarded the 2019 Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and the 2017 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture. And has also been the recipient of awards, fellowships and residencies from The Foundation of Contemporary Art, The MacDowell Colony, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Art Omi and an upcoming residency at The Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China (2021). Shpungin’s work has been reviewed in publications such as Artforum, Flash Art, New York Magazine, Art in America, Sculpture Magazine, The New York Times, Timeout London, Connaissance des Arts and Le Monde, among others. Her work was the subject of PBS’s Art Assignment, Object Empathy and was cited in the introduction of Jerry Saltz’s book Seeing out Louder. An extensive hardcover book was published in 2016 documenting Shpungin’s monumental project, Drawing Of A House (Triptych).
Caption: Diana Shpungin, His View, 2011, hand-drawn video animation, continuous loop