Sophy Naess | Joseph Stella

Dramas of Adjustement

24 October – 11 December, 2021

April in Paris is proud to announce Dramas of Adjustment, a presentation of artworks by Sophy Naess and Joseph Stella. It is the first show by Naess in the Netherlands and it contains completely new works such as several large collagraphs on paper and canvas and a site-specific wall-filling weaving.

Between panels with stretched colorful paint marks, illustrations of a fox appear who tries, in a variety of attempts and constant stretches, to reach grapes that are hanging high on a tree. The obvious effort of the fox is never rewarded. The wall-sized weaving by Sophy Naess is an approach to Aesop’s fable of The Fox and the Grapes, in which the fox tells himself, after not being able to harvest the desired fruit, that the grapes are no good anyway and therefore not worth chasing. Naess’ weaving catches the fox in the moment of constant trial, continuously under tension and never reaching his satisfaction.

Since he can’t partake of this meal fit for gods, the fox scorns the grape-eaters and calls them clods. | 2021 | hand painted and hand woven cotton and wool | dimensions variable

What resonates in the work is the feeling of tension that can occur when one strives for the idea of a “good” or “better” life. Lauren Berlant, the renowned American cultural theorist, sees this attachment as an actual obstacle to ones being. Dramas of Adjustment is the term Berlant uses to describe the situation when an unfeasible aim, which one might project in an object or idea of desire, will never be reached and therefore one needs to adjust their perception of it. (Berlant, Lauren: Cruel Optimism, London 2011.) In Naess’ tapestry, the grapes can be seen as the idea of the better life which the fox tries to reach to no end.

Clusters of Promises (ruptured matrix) | 2021 | collagraph | 38 x 28 cm

Besides their figurative meaning, the works presented in the exhibition Dramas of Adjustment are quite literally dependent on tension and stretching. For weaving the tapestry, for example, requires the pull and the traction of a loom in order to create it. The weaving is a rather artisanal approach and reflects Naess’ interest in structure and material itself. In her tapestry the adaptability of the wool as well as the stretching of the painted marks applied on the threads before the weaving process, transmit the idea of simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction.

Naess’ collagraphs are prints on paper of loosely woven figurative constructions of threads. In order to be printed the fragile construction of threads is recomposed each time it comes out of the ink in order to be printed again. The prints are the result of this circular process of stretching, loosening, and repeated stretching.

Untitled (Arc, negative), (Publication in collaboration with Marina Ancona) | 2020 | 76,5 x 57 cm

Besides her examination of narratives such as myths and fables, Sophy Naess depicts in her paintings details she observes in everyday life, often looking to plant forms and their negative space as a mirror of the tensions in the woven work.

Her approach of observation and reflection will be put in relation to a selective presentation of survey drawings and paintings of material and structures by Joseph Stella. The result is a dialogue and trans-historical relatedness between the works.

Watermelon and zucchini | gouache and pencil on paper | 45.1 x 59.7 cm

Joseph Stella (1877 – 1946) was one of the most technically-skilled and versatile painters of the early twentieth century, and eclectic in his styles and motifs. He painted and drew everything from grim industrial sites to phantasmagoric landscapes, in meticulous realist, cubist, futurist and precisionist styles.

“I was thrilled to find America so rich with so many new motifs to be translated into a new art. Steel and electricity had created a new world” Joseph Stella

Man seated at a window | 1930 | charcoal and pastels on paper | 38 x 29 cm

The atmospheric charcoal drawing titled Man seated at a window from 1930 shows how Stella used charcoal in order to portrait a simple moment of daily life with such pathos.

Stella established his reputation as a bold and innovative artist who was able to convey the excitement of the city and modern life. At the same time, he was compelled to express the powerful spiritual connection he felt with the natural world through his many paintings of flora and fauna. This was a subject the artist would pursue persistently through his entire career, becoming a prolific creator of lyrical and exuberant depictions of flowers, plants and birds. Stella saw a purity and beautiful mystery in nature and explored it with passion, combining realism and fantasy in a modernist idiom.

Cactus, Century Plant | c1918 | silverpoint, colored pencil, pencil on paper | 38.1 x 52.1 cm

Sophy Naess (*1982) was trained as an oil painter and maintains an active multidisciplinary practice that includes weaving, writing, and various print-based projects.
Her work is presented in dialogue with works by Joseph Stella (* 1877 Muro Lucano, IT | † 1946 New York City, USA) an Italian-American painter. The latter’s fine silverpoint drawings of plants and flowers and idiosyncratic paintings on paper share with Naess a vulnerable, fluttering sensibility. In 1897, Stella began studying painting at the Art Students League, then at the New York School of Art.

To see more of Sophy Naess and Joseph Stella, check out our digital viewing rooms or our artists’s page.

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Dramas of Adjustment

Sophy Naess | Joseph Stella

24 October - 11 December 2021 at April in Paris in Aerdenhout, NL

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