Aljira , A Center for Contemporary Art

Newark, New Jersey

Bending The Grid: an ongoing series

January 21 – March 19, 2016

Lilly Wei, Guest Curator
A survey of Pat Lay’s work from the 1970s to the present, “Myth, Memory &Android Dreams” is characterized by an inclusivity that embraces a range of cultures across spatial and temporal boundaries. As part of that breadth, the artist has always worked in a variety of media, drawn to the experimental and the multidisciplinary. This exhibition will trace the trajectory of her projects and the evolution of her thinking, with the emphasis on her recent production.
The early works were influenced by American land art and Japanese gardens, reconciling two approaches to the art and nature, art in nature dialectic. Expanding her repertoire of materials, Lay began to use welded steel in the 1980s as a way to incorporate drawing into her projects, adding a linear element as well as an expressive one, a further adumbration of the emotive/rational dichotomy intrinsic to her work, an opposition that gives it tension. By the 1990s, Lay became more focused on the psychological and spiritual aspects of abstraction, on its subliminal content and the universality of its language. She also began to create installations that interacted closely with the architecture of the space, her forms—while abstract signs and symbol from the biomorphic to the geometric and linguistic—a compelling combination of the personal and the more objective. Process and the hand-made have always been important to her, inspired by feminist art and the imagery and techniques of the indigenous cultures of the Americas, Africa and the Pacific Islands. In her search for existential meaning, Lay merges a version of the collective unconscious with structuralist and post-structuralist theories, Dadaism and Surrealism, postmodernism and contemporary strategies. Toward the end of the decade, Lay began to create mixed-media constructions that were often a cross between reliefs and paintings in the form of mandalas.
She also began to explore masks but as a hybridized, post-human form and from there, a series of heads in the first years of the new millennium that suggest multi-ethnic cyborgs or androids, derived from the altar heads of the Ife and Benin, Greek and Roman gods, Buddhist and Hindu deities. They are commentaries on the increasingly complex role of technology in our lives, blurring the distinction between what is human and what is machine. Lay, developing this theme further, constructs tapestry-like constructions that resemble early Tibetan mandalas out of computer memory cards and motherboards as well as scanned and collaged images of manipulated tribal heads, equating two systems of knowledge, the mandala and electronic circuitry, one traditional and the other current. The retrospective will conclude with her most recent work: sculptures of fired clay, steel, computer components and other ready-mades.
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