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Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen: Cut Work
March 21, 2019 - April 14, 2019
A Survey 2008–2018
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 21 / 6–8 PM / Free
Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project is pleased to present Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen’s Cut Work, a freehand paper-cutting process that charts the contours of our ever-changing emotional landscape through the movement of form, line, color—and especially in Cut Work—light and shadow. Evolved over the course of 10 years, Cut Work travels through Gregory-Gruen’s diverse vocabulary of mediums—from paper and metal to leather and 12-gauge gunshot blasts—to understand the play between visceral responses and meditative rest.
“Cut Work is a process to open the mind’s imagination through contemplative reflection and vacate the strife of daily life,” says Gruen. Using scalpel-cut multilayered imagery, the dimensional layers make space for shadows to fall and move with a meditative vibration. Imperfection becomes perfection. There are no guides, rules, drawings, or plans in the process. The image is determined freehand in the top layer of paper. An adhesive is added under the top layer, followed by another layer of paper which is in turn cut—the process continuing to create multiple inward layers.
Gregory-Gruen’s work in fashion design was a segue into the rediscovery of this current body of work. In 2000, she began developing and evolving the technique used in Cut Work. The journey begins with pure shadow—investigating absence and movement against pure atmospheric light. The evolution continues with the infusion of color, where the multilayered image finds both residence and freedom within defined edges. With the addition of highly saturated pigments, the image is sharpened: the cut edges vibrate and move, engaging the viewer in unexpected hypnotic optical experiences.
With authority, but without fixed outcomes, there is also risk in this work. “The coupling of skin and a surgeon’s scalpel brings forth complicated emotions,” she says. The act of cutting skin brings life and death into high relief, just like the artist searches to understand the chaotic jolts of everyday experience and the composure that permeate the work. Though the end result is very precise, the calm that permeates the cut works is challenged by the artist’s introduction of a highly destructive tool. Random 12-gauge shotgun blasts to the perceived “perfection” of the work produce a visceral reaction. The result is an emotional paradox, as the viewer’s perception is shaped by the violence and exhilaration of the act.
The exhibition also features nuanced metal cut work and silkscreens created in collaboration with artist Gary Lichtenstein.
Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen grew up in Chicago. Both her mother and grandmother were artists, introducing Elizabeth to visual thinking and imagination at an early age. Inspired to pursue her creative ideas, she moved to New York City in 1985 to attend Parsons School of Design. She received a BFA in Fashion Design in 1989 and went on to work in well-known design studios. In 2013, Gregory-Gruen left fashion design to focus on the Cut Work exploration. She currently resides in New York City with her husband, photographer Bob Gruen.