a rope, pulled

Meredith Sellers, Crash (Pink) (Detail), 2022, Oil and latex on panel, 31 x 22 inches, [courtesy of the artist, and take it easy, Atlanta]

How do we make sense of catastrophe? With time.

Moments immediately following acts of destructive violence are often not ones of clarity, but of shock. a rope, pulled (March 19–April 23, 2022), featuring works by Scott Lawrence and Meredith Sellers, offers the seemingly impossible: a moment to sit in destruction, peacefully suspended. Car crashes, feathers in mid-fall, melting glaciers, and a leather shoe sinking into the ground coexist in a strange space of suspended calamity. In the sundrenched gallery of take it easy, the mood is almost romantic, with help from Sellers’ dreamy paintings and the gentle swaying of Lawrence’s installation of parrot and crow feathers. With a bit of wit from Lawrence and Sellers, the tone borders on humorous, but the laughter dies in the throat. The implicit and explicit destruction on view is a little too close for comedy.

Meredith Sellers, Crash (Pink), 2022, Oil and latex on panel, 31 x 22 inches [courtesy of the artist, and take it easy, Atlanta]

Lawrence and Sellers tackle similar concerns in their work: the human and environmental costs of capitalism, the juxtaposition of death and playfulness, how what is absent from a piece can bring the emotional whammy better than a straightforward representation. Their artforms, however, are quite different. Sellers’ weapons of choice are oil and latex, which she wields with the intensity of the Dutch masters whose style she references. In Crash (Pink) (2022), the lower half of the panel shows the aftermath of a serious wreck. Two cars are crumpled like paper, mangled with a severity that contradicts their benign positions in relation to one another. They seem barely to touch, but the fact of their recent impact is evident. In the upper half of the panel, a pale pink border frames a small image of a glacier, part of which has broken off and fallen into the ocean. The piece has an implicit auditory quality—the crack of the iceberg and the crack of metal-on-metal echo one another. In Crash (Yellow) (2022), the scrunched remains of another car, this time framed in brilliant chartreuse, are again grisly and beautiful.

These paintings of human-made destruction (the glacier on a macro scale, the cars on a micro) are void of humans. Yet there is a humanity in the work that generates an emotional charge. It’s hard not to ask, Were they okay? Sellers’ third piece, Weather as a Force Multiplier (2019), depicts the only living being in the whole show: a small, black ant atop a mess of flowers, framed by sky. This painting seems to respond to concerns of wellbeing with a reminder of life’s inherent insignificance and precarity—in other words, they were not okay.

Scott Lawrence, Box IV (American Crow), 2022, halftone screen print on custom wood, aluminum and gypsum panels, crow feathers, panel: 29x36x12, dimensions variable [courtesy of take it easy, Atlanta]

Scott Lawrence, Box V (Quaker Parrot), installation view, 2022, archival giclee on custom wood, aluminum and gypsum, panel, parrot, feathers, panel: 27x 40x 1.87 inches, dimensions variable [courtesy of take it easy, Atlanta]

People are also there, but not there, in Lawrence’s work. Lawrence is a sculptor who places great emphasis on his conceptual frameworks. From opposite ends of the narrow gallery space, Box IV (American Crow) and Box V (Quaker Parrot) (both 2022) confront one another. These works are hyper-realist illusions, appearing to be Amazon boxes slouched against the walls. An instantly recognizable sight, these boxes are not actually cardboard, but wood, aluminum, and gypsum panels assembled to great effect. Both installations include feathers hanging from above, swaying languidly, but with a dishevelment that implies a sudden, possibly violent motion has just occurred. As in Sellers’ work, there is the ghost of a sound (a gunshot?) and a lingering question. The Amazon logos, in conversation with the suspended feathers and alongside Sellers’ images of destruction, take on a sinister symbolism, a sly nod toward the toll of mass consumerism’s logistics.

In Lawrence’s Shoe V (2021), an altered leather shoe appears to sink into the ground, presented against a plain white panel. It is, in some ways, wacky. As with the feathers that have not yet reached the ground—and never will—the shoe is suspended in time, but the prognosis does not look good for its wearer.

In fact, the prognosis doesn’t look good for anyone here. Not for the unseen owners of the ruined cars, not for the lone ant on the flower, not for the birds—wherever they are—whose feathery remains catch the breeze, and certainly not for the life that exists on the same planet as the melting glacier. But the sun rises, and the Amazon orders arrive, and we buy new pairs of shoes, and we go to visit sunlit galleries on Saturday afternoons, because the reality is that we cannot stay suspended in time. The feathers sway. We move, for better or worse, forward.

Scott Lawrence, Shoe V, 2022, altered leather shoe, custom gypsum and wood panel, shoe: 12 x3 x 2.5 inches & Panel: 42 x 42 x2.5 inches [courtesy of take it easy, Atlanta]

EC Flamming is a writer in Atlanta. Her work focuses on the cultural impacts of moving images and contemporary art to explore how media consumption shapes and reflects social relations. The last movie she watched was Dangerous Liaisons, and the last television show was Alone. She recommends both. If you have a movie or television suggestion, DM @ecflamming