Friday, December 1st, 2006

Echo Eggebrecht: Come Hell or High Water

Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery
526 West 26 Street, Second Floor
New York City
212 243 3335

October 21 – November 25, 2006

Echo Eggebrecht The Time Machine 2006 oil on panel, 44 x 68 inches Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery
Echo Eggebrecht, The Time Machine 2006 oil on panel, 44 x 68 inches Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery

Echo Eggebrecht’s narrative is surreal without being illustrative. The title of her exhibition, “Come Hell or High Water”, shares a similar tone with previous exhibitions, “The Least Missing” and “Oh, But You Will.” Eggebrecht’s narrative tone is also oblique and obscure, but not without exigency. These vacant landscapes exude a strange, nostalgic yearning.

The Ice (all paintings 2006), measuring roughly three by five feet, depicts a frigid arcticscape. A white oval frames the foreground while a similar, smaller shape hovers in darkness behind a mound of ice, breaking the horizon line. With a thin swirl of color, scattered dots and numbered coordinates radiate from the center of the foreground, suggesting a set of planetary constellations resting on the tundra. Populating this unclear and unusual space are two thickly painted camping cots, one on either side of the planetary vortex, their lines of perspective crossing in the center.

This and other spatially and thematically ambiguous landscapes include geometric structures, reminiscent of the Modernist grid depicted naturalistically and with fluidity. These curious forms are signifiers of human presence and nebulous narrative in an otherwise empty environment. These paintings in oil mark a departure from Eggebrecht’s previous hard-edged use of acrylic paint. While retaining the taping technique to create straight lines, there is a newfound painterliness, the crisp taped lines no longer requisite to the painting’s atmosphere. Eggebrecht also abandons Americana for an ethereal, fleeting emptiness. Descriptive, diagrammatic and at times obscure, text also appears in Eggebrecht’s paintings, and, like the geometric forms, implies traces of human activity.

A wobbly-looking, wooden object is The Time Machine’s eponymous contraption, yet it appears more primitive, flattened and anthropomorphic than technological or futuristic. On either side, nebulous clouds and atmosphere are threaded with text. The words, written in mirror image and rendered by plotting points and incompletely connecting them with lines, are indecipherable. The only phrase most immediately legible asks, “Where will it lead us from here?”  Constellation-like and reminiscent of Greek letters, the text is as oddly anachronistic as the rickety time machine.

Eggebrecht is at her best when symbols are universal and free of too much specific baggage, and the text is subtly obscured, but not obtuse. The Longing depicts a field of poppies, a tree stump and a series of four tumbling structures of loosely assembled frames. Within these frames are stippled constellated specks and the repeated phrase “To Sever for Years.” An Ouiji board is painted on the stump, an item reminiscent of her earlier Americana paintings. Although comparable elements appear in the other paintings of the exhibition, ultimately, in this arrangement there is no coherent narrative to grasp onto.  Likewise, in The Gravity, one might wonder what the loosely taped platforms and fences, painted in a rich and gritty manner, have in common with the text of the children’s story “Chicken Little,” which is scribbled onto the background.

Another medium sized painting, The Site, shows us how Eggebrecht’s titles are deceptively simple and invitingly ambiguous.  A spindly grid is suspended above a narrow rectangular trench while palette knife strokes, whose direction suggests a rainbow, describe the sky.  An orange net structure runs from the center of the painting along the horizon to the painting’s far edge. The intentional sparseness of visual elements leads the viewer to wonder: is this site one of construction or an architectural dig? The symbols here are subtle and indirect. The site as icon is filled with rich anachronistic possibility– while an interpretation of excavation recalls the past, one of construction imagines a future. Echo Eggebrecht imbues indeterminate meaning in seemingly simple symbols and narratives.