Assembled in the wake of a year of pandemic constrictions, this collection of projects brings together four constructions of the inside. Unlike cityscapes, landscapes, or seascapes, each is, in a sense, a kind of in-scape: an inwardness in action.
Pandemic life is life confined but not necessarily life reduced: all sides here are inside, every interior has its own interior, each plane stretches and squeezes into another. There is, still, much to see.
Wendy Deutelbaum lives on the Upper West Side. To see more work, go to https://www.instagram.com/wdeutelbaum/?hl=en
These seven collaborative drawings capture the spaces that extend from the angles of our apartment. During the pandemic, our focus moved not to a center point but outward from an inside. I photographed and drew each room, my partner chose the colors from a stash of markers, and we cut out and collaged the art pieces on the walls into the drawing. If it was not quite the game of Exquisite Corpse played by the Surrealists, our collaboration was an effort to the capture the panoramas we inhabited in a surreal time.
Inside/In: Boxes (2017-2019)
After I had been making art boxes for some years, an artist friend gave me a wooden chest whose drawers were the perfect size for the construction of mindscapes. Some of the objects placed inside came from her collection of collage materials (Elephant Eye), others from our travels (Wellfleet), and others from the street, old Life magazines and second-hand stores (Puzzle, Juggler, Terror).
In some ways, the act of fitting objects into drawers reminded me of the dioramas my sisters and I saw on childhood outings to the Field Museum in Chicago or reconstructions of domestic spaces like the miniature Thorne rooms we saw at the Art Institute of Chicago. There is something reassuring about seeing objects inside an interior whose walls contain them. Instead of being overwhelmed by a scene within, a box constructs a certain distance: we can enjoy or be frightened by what we see but also analyze and contemplate it.
Inside/Alongside: Accordion Folds (2010-2011)
A traditional form of book art, the accordion creates interiors through pleats that unfold, sequence, and tell stories. Depth of Field (2010) is an autobiography constructed from family photographs of scenes that have disappeared. I like that you can stand an accordion on a shelf or a table and view all its pages simultaneously or unfold it like a book, panel by panel, each at once obscuring and anticipating the panel to come.
The Richard Serra accordion reconstructs one path viewers walk through in his Junction/Cycle, exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in 2011. A sequence, a series of partial views, and a set of recurrences, Serra’s steel sculpture resembles a cascade of partially glimpsed insides and outsides.
I shot 37th St Dance Studio (2011) from a friend's apartment one night when the studio interior seemed to be lit by fire. The accordion’s pleats aspire to catch the shapes of the energy of movement in that orange light.
Inside/Plied: Matchbox Accordion Folds (2010-2015)
Building on matchboxes wrapped with photographs I was shooting—people strolling in Riverside Park, bus riders on the M5—I began to insert tiny accordions by bending shot sequences into folds and squeezing them into the drawer for observers to stretch into a story.
Some were food-related: in one, a sequence of panels showed people enjoying a meal with recipes they'd followed inscribed on the end panel. Others, like film-strips, were action-sequences: Rehearsal (2010) catches dancers moving across the floor inside the Alvin Ailey School, while Jim and Polly (2014) captures the daily life of my elderly parents in their Chicago apartment. Their sequencing was my choreography and plot-line.
Breathing Box/Conceptual Proliferation (2015), finally, was a response to a friend’s inner churning. In sequencing the panels, I wanted the text to work like meditative breathing. Here, the cramped lettering of the first panel—the repeated words “I can’t see how things can be different”— dissolves into a more spacious “Can’t see how I can be” then , finally, into the simple suggestion: “see things be."