THE CHARLOTTE POST PRAISES in (or for) perpetuity

“In (or for) perpetuity” is an invitation to dive into extreme abstraction.

Artists Carmen Neely and Paul Travis Phillips create a conversation about language through the exhibit, which opens Feb. 6 at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, with an artist reception from 6-8 p.m. An additional conversation with the artists will take place on Feb. 7 from 10-11:15 a.m. moderated by Lia Newman, director and curator of the Van Every/Smith Galleries at Davidson College. “An Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry” entailing a video art installation and Q&A with Paul Travis Phillips will take place on March 25 from 6-7:30 p.m.

“I have gotten to know both of these artists over the past couple of years and really actually become a little obsessed with both of them, and their process, and how they think a lot about words and dialogue and communication,” said Sonya Pfeiffer, Elder Gallery’s owner and creative director. “I’m a former reporter and a current lawyer, so I often think about words.”

Language serves as the focal point of the exhibition, yet the end result is a space of wordless understanding, as the viewer embarks on a journey from one end of the spectrum to the other through the work of each artist.

“Aesthetically, our work is very different,” said Neely, a Belmont native and UNC Charlotte alumna. “We worked together before I moved to Oklahoma. We realized just talking to each other that we have a lot of overlapping interests in language and communication, even though we are coming at it from completely different angles.”

Neely explained Pfeiffer’s suggestion of a single exhibit where their work would be in dialogue with each other. The artists had considered showing together, but not given much thought to what it would be about.

“Travis is interesting because the way he approaches his work is almost as though he’s trying to corral all of the words and letters that exist and distill them down to some essence,” said Pfeiffer of the Winston-Salem based artist. “A lot of his work is imagery of words, paragraphs, letters—he also has an incredible series of books and dictionaries that he has incorporated into what will be in the show.”

Said Neely: “He is kind of dissecting words and phrases and written texts. I’m kind creating visual language through symbols and signs and gestures.”

Pfeiffer met Neely last summer during her residency at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. Neely’s time there demonstrated her fascination with what she called the, “language of gestural abstraction, and the idea of a gesture as a document—sort of a document of lived experience.” She carries this theme throughout her work.

Said Pfeiffer: “Carmen is really creating new imagery, new words. She gets very interested in a particular mark she has made on a painting, and that mark then evolves into other things. It’s just a brush stroke in one painting, but for some reason that speaks to her. That brush stroke might become a small sculpture. It might become a patch. Then she incorporates these gestures in other works. It’s almost like she’s developing language. She’s developing other ways to communicate, so sort of on the opposite side of the spectrum of Paul Travis Phillips, but they complement each other just in the way they are addressing this topic.”

– Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post