Anne Lindberg’s Thread Installations

zip drawing, 2012 and parallel 35, 2012 (installation view). Courtesy of Carrie Secrist Galllery.

spot drawing 06, 2012. Graphite and colored pencil on cotton mat board: 58 x 51 inches. Courtesy of Carrie Secrist Gallery.

It’s entirely possible that Anne Lindberg created a million straight lines for her solo show “sustaining pedal” at Carrie Secrist Gallery. Funny thing is none of those lines – whether drawn or created with thread – ever meet or intersect one another.

Lindberg’s process-intensive pieces are minor monuments to control, elegance, and more than a little patience on the part of their creator. The finest work in the show is a 35-foot long fiber installation suspended between two adjoining walls in the main gallery. zip drawing (2012) consists of thousands of strands of Egyptian cotton thread strung so close together that they become swarming densities of floating color. The shimmering effect of light bouncing off the tightly strung fiber is gorgeous, but it can also have a dizzying, almost epileptic effect depending on how your eye receives the work at a given moment. Painting, drawing, and color theory are natural touchstones for the piece, but so is the notion of “suturing,” a concept traditionally associated with film that describes the mental process by which a succession of individual static images are experienced as a seamless, flowing visual event in the eye of the viewer. The thread can operate in the same way, coalescing into an airy mist, or the effect can be ruptured by the blurred staccato of a thousand tiny filaments.

zip drawing, 2012 (installation view). Egyptian cotton thread and staples; 8 h. x 10 x 35 feet. Courtesy of Carrie Secrist Gallery.

All of this is to say that Lindberg’s installation is strengthened by a phenomenological quality conditional on light, time of day, and the way a viewer positions himself next to the piece. These variables effect how the colors of the strings bend and shift, what kinds of shadows and colors are thrown on the gallery floor, and how the string appears to create movement and even sound. Unlike the more representational strategies of Aaron Rayburn and Aime Ntakiyica – two artists also doing interesting string-based installations – Lindberg’s zip drawing is the product of a conceptual process rooted in ideas of mutability and variation similar to those explored by Sol Lewitt. It’s a fantastic installation, and as strong a piece as I’ve seen in the last year.

The show is rounded out with a series of drawings based on repetition and variation. Like the installation, parallel lines are formed in close proximity of one another in order to create shapes and densities. In parallel 35 (2012) a blotch of florescent yellow rests within a field of long graphite lines. In this piece parallel lines run vertically from the top to the bottom of the image and are heavier toward the center of the picture plane, creating something like a blurry abstract figure set against a lighter ground.

parallel 35, 2012. Graphite and colored pencil on cotton mat board; 58 x 104 inches. Courtesy of Carrie Secrist Gallery

Many other drawings in the show are variations of this figure ground relationship, though there is a second strategy in which heavier densities are more diffusely situated within the pictures. This series of “spot drawings” calls to mind xeroxed animal prints. As with Lindberg’s installation there is an optical tension that exists between reading her drawings as whole images and the striation of individual lines that make up the image. The effect again swings between choppy and smooth, creating optical vibrations that distinguish this work as visual experiences more engaging than just images.

Lindberg’s process of methodically filling a page with parallel lines allows for a range of potential outcomes, though the objectivity of this process belies the artist’s apparent intentionality toward creating specific shapes. Rather than allow the conceptual process to dictate the ultimate outcome, here Lindberg appears to be exploring the mutability of form with an eye glancing toward representation. It’s a dynamic that can’t match the elegance of the installation, and runs dangerously close to high concept decoration. Where zip drawing exudes its magic with an understated grace, the collection of drawings get bogged down by too many ideas struggling against one another. However, given the quality of execution Lindberg is capable of, it’s worth looking past a few over-baked drawings to be excited about what she might do next. -Randall Miller

Anne Lindberg: sustaining pedal will be on view at Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago through October 20,2012.