January 16 - April 10, 2005
Petah Coyne: Above and Beneath the Skin
Few contemporary artists possess Petah Coyne's ability to transform quotidian matter into works of resolute poetry. Combining both figurative and abstract traditions and deploying a diverse range of materials, her sculptures constitute a complex language -- decidedly individualistic and yet surprisingly accessible. She has persistently transformed spaces into palpable environments, each context determining the work's dynamics -- its character, associations, and metaphorical significance.
Coyne's work first came to public attention in the fall of 1987, with a full-scale environment installed at the SculptureCenter's former gallery on East 69th Street in Manhattan. There, during the down days of summer, she reconfigured an otherwise ordinary white cube into a fantastic world of natural forms, an enchanted forest of signs. Over the course of sixteen years, she has maintained a protean pace, constantly challenging herself to engage varied spaces and to experiment with new media. A short list of materials used between 1985 and 2004 -- wood, hay, soil, tar, chicken wire, black sand, white powder, silk flowers, wax, dry wall, religious statues, taxidermy, hair, ribbons, bird cages, and other found objects -- confirms the extent to which experimentation drives her sculptural ethos, as documented in her exhibition history by an ever-changing roster of materials and forms.
A mature artist open to a continuing and surprising evolution, Coyne is at a notable point in her career. This nineteen-year traveling survey, encompassing all phases of her development, includes significant pieces from the late 1980s and early 1990s, two wax chandeliers, two hair works from Fairy Tales, two wax personages from the White Rain installation, and two more recent sculptures: Daphne (2002-03) and Life Interrupted (1997-2004).
Eight black and white photographs spanning a nine-year period from 1992 to 2001 will complement the sculptural ensemble. Coyne's early art training included courses in photography and printmaking at the Art Academy of Cincinnati during the mid-1970s, and she graduated with a double major in both media. Photography remained a passing interest for years, secondary to sculpture until 1992, when she reconnected with it while traveling in Japan. Since then she has generated a steady stream of impressive images distinct for their abstraction, phenomenological orientation, and emotional impact. Photography is Coyne's way of processing information and recording sensation. Rather than draw to investigate and stockpile ideas, she deploys custom-rigged cameras and pinhole lenses -- the equivalent of a diary or sketchpad.