New World (Dis)Order: a question of identity

The show traveled from Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco to National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, to Fresno Art Museum, Fresno California and to Richard L. Nelson Gallery, UC Davis. 1994 - 1995

In The First Elegies (1994) Rebecca Gozion conveys the anguish of someone who is desperately trying to communicate, although in a mode that is jumbled, illogical, and generally indecipherable to others. The painting is composed of five very tall panels with tar-paper surfaces that have been completely covered with off-white writing. The writing relentlessly scrawls across the panels as a continuous text with no beginning or end, no paragraphs, and few marks of punctuation. Letters and words are written backwards or upside-down, and are interspersed with numbers and signs. English shifts to German in places, and at times the language is an incomprehensible mixture or fabrication. There are also erasures and smudges. Although the text is virtually impossible to read, the agony of its mournful voice is unmistakable. Indeed, the voice refuseses to remain silent even when it speaks in a void. In one sense, the voice seems to be searching for its own language, and in another sense it seems to be in the process of wiping out the languages it has learned. Given its visual character and compositional style, the voice also seems to be in rebellion against the conventions of a unified, ordered code and any centered, hierarchical structure.

In a related work, Die Erst Elegie (die Hobo/die Hexe) (1993), Gozion uses a similar mode of writing and applies it, along with some book pages and blood splatters, to the front and back sides of a door. Again the mood of a lament for something lost combines with the energy of a fervent remonstration. Significantly, the thet is written on a door - an object that suggests both the passage from one space to another and the closure within a contained space. The door is also the understructure in Memoirs of an Average Woman, no III ("das Kitchen")  (1990). Here the writing is mainly in the form of notations on shopping lists, calendar pages and transaction ledgers. The scrap papers, together with stain marks, scribbles, and a dirty cotton slip, give evidence of the Average Woman named in the title. Although, like the voice in the Elegy paintings, she lacks a specific identity as well as a name, she has left an imprint that reminds of identity's impermanent, elusive nature. Thus Gozion again approaches identity through issues of communication and conceptions about absence and presence.

 by Sidra Stitch, curator
 New World Disorder
copyright 1993
Northern California Council of the National Museum of Women in the Arts

All images copyright
Rebecca Gozion