Not There

6/17 - 7/9 2023

Cameron Harvey
Undoing is Becoming (Part 1)

Figure 8: Ubera (Cebia Speciosa), detail

Cameron Harvey, Figure 8: Ubera (Cebia Speciosa), detail, 2021

Not There is pleased to present Undoing is Becoming, Becoming is Undoing, a two-part exhibition of large-scale paintings by Los Angeles based artist Cameron Harvey. The exhibition is comprised of two hangings: Part 1, Undoing is Becoming, will be on view from June 17 through July 10, 2023. Part 2, Becoming is Undoing, will be on view from July 13 through July 30, 2023.

The archeological record, provisional as it is, suggests that painting predates architecture. In the paleolithic cave, hands and rudimentary tools were used to annunciate the worldview of early human life in an environment which had yet to discover the right angle. The undulatingly limestone walls hosting bison, big cats, and human handprints had not yet been subjected to the divisions of orthogonal space, distinguishing the horizontal from the vertical, wall from floor and ceiling, or the bound geometry of the rectangle which would go on to host almost the full sweep of the Western canon. A physical encounter with the work of Cameron Harvey is an unexpected communion with the corporeal origins of painting. The scale is undeniably immersive and sublime, with surfaces that conflate the most modern and synthetic substances (acrylic paint) with ancient gestures and impulses (the body as tool).

In Harvey’s paintings—which are executed on the floor using the gesture and reach of the entire body—traces of knees, fingers and toes, or a heel dragged through a wet and viscous medium of color populate her surfaces with asymmetrical symmetries—a confederation of marks with differences in surface finish, saturation, stroke, and pressure—registered against the constancy of a midline, and the vulnerable drape of unstretched canvas. The complexity of these moves are pulled through the co-evolution of shared surface between painting and wall (with their origins in cave painting and fresco), up through their decoupling with the invention of easel painting, and out past their reassignment to the floor with the latex flows of Lynda Benglis.

In Harvey’s work, the disappearance of the stretcher underlines the significance of the substrate, as the stage on which representation has played out over ten of thousands of years but is rarely remarked upon. The four paintings in this exhibition do not have a front, in the sense that paintings have fronts because the backs are denied. Here the front of a painting leaches through the weave of the canvas, obliterating any sense of a top or suspended layer, indivisibly fusing recto and verso into one continuous surface. Unbound from a stretcher, and freed from the convention of the rectangle, these paintings lap forward, at times violating the covenant between wall and floor. It is disarming to encounter the vitality and dysmorphia of a painting where the back lays over the front, and the bottom extends itself to meet you where you stand.

One also finds that the woven textile hiding beneath the painted surfaces of Rembrandt, Matisse, and O’Keeffe is acknowledged by Harvey as something which unravels, stains, creases, enshrouds, and drapes. Here, canvas constitutes painting as much as the paint itself. The perception of canvas in painting—its presence and absence—is also addressed in the one explicit work of sculpture in the exhibition; a painting which Harvey buried for a year, and disinterred in June of 2021. Over the course of its burial the canvas decomposed, leaving only the mummified remains of acrylic paint. One stands over this piece, in the back of the gallery, like peering into the grave at an inverted carcass of synthetic skin which has survived the perishable cartilage of the canvas.

Harvey’s paintings are also a profound reminder that among living things, deviations away from formal perfection are written by the pathologies of life, as witnessed in the irregularities of a tree that has grown against a prevailing wind, or a leaf curled under the bias of the sun. Within the human form, the broad stroke of symmetry that defines our sidedness, is countered by deeper, interior arrangements of the heart and liver favoring the left side of the body or expressed through the hitch of a gait or the fate of handedness. The seam between two pieces of canvas, which we confront in all four of the paintings in this exhibition, reify the sagittal plane—that line down the very center of us that carries the evolutionary urge to walk upright in defiance of gravity, and to seek out the bilateral forms that constitute an abundance of life on this planet.

Cameron Harvey (b. 1977, Vermont) lives and works in Los Angeles. She received an MFA from Art Center College of Design (2021), and a BA in Studio Art from Wellesley College (1999). She held a teaching assistantship in printmaking and painting at La Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy in 2001, and received her Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. Harvey has participated in residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the Lijiang Studio in China, and the Chicago Artists Coalition. She has been awarded grants from the city of Chicago and the Alumnae Foundation of Wellesley College, as well as the Woman’s Club of Pasadena. Harvey has exhibited nationally and internationally. Select solo exhibitions include: Viscera Velarium at Art Center College of Design (2021), See Without Seeing, Know Without Knowing at the Chicago Artists Coalition (2018), and A Hole in my Bucket, at Elastic Arts, Chicago, IL (2017). Selected group exhibitions include: Rebuilding the Present at Weinberg/Newton Gallery, Chicago, IL (2019), The Surface and Below at O’Connor Art Gallery, River Forest, IL (2014), and 36 Cats and One Stripe Pussy at AIR Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2012).