Ingrid Calame, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
Thursday 18 August 2011
There is a story by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges that describes an empire so obsessed with exact cartographic science that only a map in 1:1 scale will suffice: a map the same size as the world. I am sure that the Los Angeles-based Ingrid Calame has heard that tale a thousand times – she is an artist who gets down on the pavement and traces every mark over a given area.
She maps every spill, scuff and smudge; every blob of chewing gum, tag of graffiti or splatter of unidentifiable matter. The results are now on show, in an exhibition that deftly communicates Calame's experimentation with recording the ground beneath our feet.
In glossy enamel paintings on aluminium, exhibited downstairs, Calame layers tracings from different locations on top of one another, creating bright, glossy abstractions that give impressions of space and depth, often reminiscent of abstracted natural landscapes, partially obscured. In the small Vu-eyp Vu-eyp? Vueyp? Vu- eyp? (2002) bright patches of cerise buzz and fizz at the outskirts of the painting, glimpsed through a break in large patches of parrot green. In a large painting of this type, Calame has taken tracings of trackmarks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and layered them with studies from the LA River, creating the impression of a lurid set of tracks streaked with rain and oil in shades of peach, indigo and red.
Some of the best works are those that more closely resemble Calame's original tracings in coloured pencil. In sspspss...um biddle BOP (1997), a huge sheet of mylar (a translucent architectural tracing paper) hangs from the walls, covering the floor. Tiny duck egg blue islands spatter it, as though dripping on to the floor, tiny countries thrown at a wall.
Upstairs, paintings taken from a Buffalo wading pool are rendered beautifully in coloured pencil, in pinks and yellows – atlases mapping little patches of algae, perhaps, that shimmer and fade. An enormous new wall drawing, made by pushing pigment through paper and on to the gallery walls, beautifully and smudgily details more graffiti-heavy tracings from the LA River.
The ground beneath our feet is always changing, but Calame offers us her traces for an extended period of time. Write your name, spill your coffee, drag your heels, crash your car: our traces are left all over the street floor. Calame's process relates both to an actual location and to a moment pulled from a moving process. Rather than creating new worlds, it is when Calame gets closer to this one – to the immense cartographies of Borges's tale – that her work becomes most affecting.
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