L E T I T I A Q U E S E N B E R R Y
August 2 - Sep 6, 2019
(((heat))) presents the newest work of Louisville native Letitia Quesenberry. Exploring and challenging the boundaries of visual experience, Quesenberry’s broad creative efforts focus on questions about visibility and perceptual ambiguity. By combining disparate materials such as color correction film, beeswax, and sanded plexiglass with reflective or opaque materials like resin, graphite, LEDs, plaster, paint, mirrors, coal slag, and mica dust, Quesenberry creates moments of hypnotic bewilderment and intense communication. The minimalistic appearance of much of her work belies its labor-intensive origins. Brimming with energy and light, this work compels the viewer to look closely, with deep intention, and to consent to the experience of seeing. Yet just as memory, vision, and identity can be mutable, light fluctuates: what you think you are seeing is not necessarily what you are seeing. This disorienting uncertainty reflects Quesenberry’s personal experiences as a queer woman navigating an often intolerant and confusing culture.
Recently Quesenberry has been working with light directly, creating light boxes and room-sized installations where layered geometric bands of color change hue in continuous and unpredictable motion, laying bare the transitory nature of understanding. Inspired by Op Art, Kinetic Art, and the illusionistic work of mid-20th Century Latin American artists like Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesús Rafael Soto, Julio Le Parc, as well as the graphic sculptural boxes of Martha Boto, Quesenberry’s light boxes mesmerize, revealing that definitions, boundaries, and borders are only concepts, not concrete things. Often possessing a depth at odds with their actual dimensions, to look into these works is to look into the infinity of space or the star-filled undersides of eyelids with closed eyes. Lacking any figurative or cultural reference points to decipher but aided by experimental color combinations that vibrate and create illusions of movement, we can only rely upon the physiological experience of seeing and perceiving. Although any resolution is quite unknowable, there is beauty and truth in the muddling, pleasure in the unknown. Contemporary digital life is also reflected; insasmuch as we endlessly scroll through Facebook and Instagram feeds on our phones, subconsciously convinced that the next image will quench our unnameable desires, the ever-changing topography of Quesenberry’s light boxes tantalize us with satisfaction and a false sense of attainable knowledge. In contrast to some traditional American definitions of art that reflect an inherent and rigid Puritanism, this kind of kinetic art fails to provide explanations and solutions, leaving us confounded but rapt.
Photographic sources have been utilized in Quesenberry’s practice for most of her career, but since 2012 she has been using the classic Polaroid shape as a formal reference. Unlike most forms of photography in which the artist employs some authority, instant Polaroid film works by a kind of uncontrollable alchemy. The structure itself declares the mystifying impossibilities of capturing images before the easy magic of cell phones. The Polaroid is multidimensional, both a record and an object you can hold. While the familiar white rectangular borders undoubtedly manifest nostalgia, Quesenberry is largely disinterested in this sentimentality. As a child she was spellbound by the magic of the instant film and is still trapped in that feeling of wonderment. She is still seeing for the first time; her work asks us to do the same. Quesenberry’s abstracted forms and symbols, prepossessed with tranquility but suggestive of female power and energy, are held motionless within the Polaroid shape, calling to mind Andy Warhol’s obsessive portraits that blurred the line between kitsch and icon, the mundane and the fabulous. Quesenberry’s meditative objects approach ideas of a celestial nature, confidently asserting that they belong in a shrine or tabernacle, connected to the infinite and the sublime.