Artist-in-Residence Moses Williams' exhibition Parable Bodies is on view through June 1, 2024 in the AIR Space.

Mitchell Barton: Razorbacks

May 12, 2023 – Jul 15, 2023

This exhibition takes its name from a passage of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick where the narrator, Ishmael, spots a whale of which only a fragment is seen and only at a distance.

Of a retiring nature, he eludes both hunters and philosophers. Though no coward, he has never yet shown any part of him but his back, which rises in a long sharp ridge. Let him go. I know little more of him, nor does anybody else.

The razorback whale is both real and intangible––both seen and mythological, part-invisible, part-imaginary, part-real, always mediated through a filter concealment and standing in as a symbol of the known unknown.

Barton draws on this sense of unknowing as process in his own artmaking. Starting with physical objects that are manipulated through photographing, printing, scanning, drawing, and photoshopping, Barton filters out the tangibility and identity of the original referent.

His process captures a kind of mythmaking, echo, erasure, instability, and impermanence––both in objects and in the evasiveness of knowledge itself. The process of creating a kind of instability is again repeated by printing the photographs onto artist tape. By design, the tape doesn’t absorb ink from the print, so the surface itself keeps the image unstable, mutable, unfixed, and ephemeral.

Barton’s tape-works are both final products and the source material for another layer of manipulated work that reveals meditation through collage.

Supported by ZAP, VIA Art Fund, and Lawrence T. Dee & Janet T. Dee Foundation