“A place for everything and everything in its place.”
It’s a proverb we knew long before Marie Kondo and her tidying up exhortations burst into popular consciousness. It’s also a saying you might keep in mind when watching double yellow linethe gallery-specific exhibition of works by Danielle Julian Norton at the Angela Meleca Gallery.
And why not aspire to tidy up, to organize? If that advice doesn’t resonate today, I don’t know when it will. Look no further than our current government for all the apoplexy-inducing evidence we need that order, structure, order and reliability are sorely lacking. Is it any wonder, then, that we are compelled to seek some sort of order in this otherwise chaotic world? Not really. At its core, the drive to command is a drive to create meaning. It’s a way for us to hold the world still long enough to try to extract patterns and meaning from it.
From this point of view, double yellow line offers both a soothing respite (because it’s quite orderly and very soothing) as well as an object lesson in the heaviness of order. Norton’s works are understated, yet imbued with so many strategic splashes of color and texture that they continually surprise. The palette is understated, but delivered in such a way that every jolt of color is amplified. The patterns repeat, but with the effect of connecting the works in a consistent and meaningful way.
Plus, Nolan manages to find a place for everything. All sorts of delicately carved nooks and crannies provide nests for everything from small earrings to carved broccoli stalks. double yellow line is a show that offers “a place for everything”, even if the relationship between these “everythings” is not always clear or obvious.
Then there are the materials: ceramics, bricks, beads, tiles and raw wood. As humble and foundational as they are, these materials allude to what one might call the democratization of creation. That is, materials remind us that we as individuals, as end users, can always build the world we envision; that we have the tools and materials to shape the world we want. This is a powerful lesson at a time when we are increasingly willing to cede control to technologies we do not fully master or understand.
This idea of shaping our world is particularly evident in Scene for a blank memorya room inspired in part by the design and ethics of the architect Ken Isaacs and his Beach Matrix. Of course, it’s not just pure functionality that happens in Norton’s work. It’s a playful one-piece puzzle that’s part stage, part performance, and part peepshow.
At this point it is impossible to sneak up Stage… and looks like a voyeur in its center without flashbacks of Duchamp since. And while that may be an unfair comparison given Given‘infamy, Stage… hold on. Interior views are effective not so much for shock value (spoiler alert: they’re not particularly shocking), but for the general discomfort that comes from not knowing exactly what you’re looking at or even if you’re supposed to be. looking at all.
Other works evoke equally enigmatic notions. Norton once shared that she longs for works that make people happy and confused. I expect that to always be true. East Main basket an elevation of weaving to the top of the hierarchy of art, or an ironic commentary on the Sisyphean nature of laundry? To do Psychic shelves celebrate our ability to classify and categorize objects, or mourn our refusal to see any connection between them? I’m not sure there are good answers. The important thing is that we are prepared to ask questions.
In double yellow line Danielle Julian Norton offers work that offers a refreshing mix of fantasy and gravity. It is illuminating work, without being pedantic; reflective without taking themselves too seriously; and accessible without complacency. If only the rest of our world could be so balanced and orderly.
double yellow line is on view at the Angela Meleca gallery until February 16.
Danielle Julian Norton will give an artist talk at the gallery on February 2 from 2 to 3 p.m.