Sophia Ainslie and John Eric Byers Press Release

Sophia Ainslie: Pata Pata
John Eric Byers: Form is Function
September 8 – October 3 at Gallery NAGA

Gallery NAGA opens our 39th season with our first solo exhibition of paintings by South African-born Sophia Ainslie and the sixth solo exhibition of furniture by John Eric Byers.

Sophia Ainslie: Pata Pata and John Eric Byers: Form is Function are on exhibit from September 8th through October 3rd. A reception for the artists and the public will be held at the gallery on Friday, September 11th from 6 to 8 pm.

Sophia Ainslie   Pata Pata

After the death of her mother from cancer, Sophia Ainslie began using a single X-ray of her mother’s abdomen as source material. It became a way to hold onto the memory of her mother and absorb the meaning of her passing.

The resulting shapes and marks led to the development of Ainslie’s visual language. Ainslie “collages” carefully selected shapes and marks from that language to create an overall composition. She uses the computer as a cutting tool to dissect, edit and collage fragments that are reconstituted and mapped through light projection. Brushed, free-flowing India ink marks are juxtaposed with white space and flat, bright, painted color to create her paintings. Each entity learns to coexist while maintaining its own identity. Her intent is to create ambiguity as to whether the work is hand-made or printed and to prove that things are not always quite what they seem.

Ainslie is interested in forming a space that reflects the relationship between the body and landscape as interconnected and parallel experiences. Drawing becomes a tool wherein observation and imagination intersect, resulting in a relationship of connections and disconnections between outside and inside or absence and presence.

The title of the exhibition, Pata Pata, meaning, “touch touch” in Xhosa, is very close to Ainslie’s heart. It comes from a Xhosa song by the South African singer Miriam Makeba whom she grew up listening and dancing to. This title refers to the formal aspect of her work – the collision that occurs between the black marks, the segments of color, and the white negative space. The marks in her newest work are more confident, gestural and thick. Ainslie feels that her mother’s body is now becoming more fragmented within her work. The composition and content is closer to the surface, as if Ainslie is now passing through her mother’s body.

John Eric Byers   Form is Function

John Eric Byers, now in his mid-fifties, is the most lauded studio furniture maker of his generation and also perhaps the most active. Focusing his energy on his studio and choosing not to teach, Byers has produced scores of private commissions and twenty-four solo exhibitions between 1991 and 2015, including a mid-career retrospective in 2004 at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts.

The newest works are both calm and intense – precise, minimalist forms whose surfaces shimmer with the varying tones and light revealed and reflected by the thousands upon thousands of gouged marks on every face. Close inspection shows that these marks themselves resemble the touch of the artist’s fingertip. This exhibition shows a departure from Byers’ vigorous cross hatching patterns and presents a new divot technique that appears smooth and organic. He continues his use of self-contained, pure shapes creating a sleek, sexy, contemporary aesthetic.

Like Byer’s past work, the finishes are muted, matte and restrained. This exhibition features only a dazzling, graphite-black and a crisp white color with a touch of exposed walnut and brass accents.

John Eric Byers’ work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Arts & Design, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC; New Britain Museum of Art, Connecticut; and several other museums. John is the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and two New York Foundation of the Arts Awards.