April 14 - June 20, 2021
Opening Wednesday, April 14th
Spencer Brownstone Gallery is pleased to announce ARENA, the gallery’s first solo exhibition with New York City-based artist Katie Bell. Using the gallery as armature, Bell stages an array of found and fabricated forms that suggest an interplay of demolition and construction, stasis and deterioration. The pieces and fragments within the space are discrete objects that share common language and form, implying enigmatic groupings and rules in a dynamic game of performative compositions.
Within this abstract landscape, the larger landmarks of Bell’s I Series stand out. These pillar-like and human-scale forms are both and neither, resembling free-standing columns with the basic Doric capital. References to classical antiquity are complicated by contemporary materials such as commercial cabinet veneer and Corian countertop surfaces. Angled forms draw the eye to a precarious mix of materials layered on the wall titled Object of the Game. Muted colors, smooth surfaces, and crisp edges cue precision yet remain playful. Other forms pass through the courtyard windows, calling attention to her outdoor piece Tableau, which casts another interactive set of objects behind glass—a diorama within another.
Bell’s sculptures move between abstract geometric forms and familiar functional objects that hint at architectural structures, game pieces, and stage props. Much of the materials in ARENA were assembled by scavenging in and around New York City, based on their formal properties, shape, color, and form. Shifting references free the work from easy definition. Participants, spectators, and pieces all seem to be active, poised for movement or transformation, while the delineation between each of these elements becomes blurred.
Bell’s work builds on the ideas of artists interested in formal and spatial interplay—most notably Robert Morris’s Scatter Piece (1968-69), which was composed of a variety of materials (sheets of aluminum, rolls of felt, bent steel) that were made into a set and strewn around the designated space. Earlier, Russian artist and architect El Lissitzky’s works fully integrated abstract forms to activate the space of the gallery. His work titled Prounenraum (1923) merged painting, sculpture, and architecture, leading the viewer around the walls with abstract, vector-like forms. He described the work as the interchange station between painting and architecture.
Treading the fine line between rational and irrational choices, found and fabricated objects, precious and unrefined material, the functional and functionless, illusion and reality, Katie Bell’s work involves serious play.
Katie Bell is an artist originally from Rockford, Illinois (b. 1985). She received her BA from Knox College (Galesburg, IL) in 2008 where she studied fine art and race and gender studies. She graduated in 2011 from the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI) with an MFA in Painting. Bell has shown her work at a variety of venues including Smack Mellon (Brooklyn, NY), Locust Projects (Miami, FL), Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (Buffalo, NY), the Brooklyn Academy of Music (Brooklyn, NY), and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Lincoln, MA). Her work has been written about in BOMB Magazine, Whitewall, Hyperallergic, Artnet, Sculpture Magazine, and Paper Magazine. In 2011 she was an artist in residence at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation’s Space Program based in Brooklyn, NY. She was awarded a fellowship in painting by the New York Foundation for the Arts and in 2016 the Saint-Gaudens Memorial Fellowship. Bell lives and works in New York, NY.