by Thomas Micchelli 2013
Caroline Cox stands in her studio, surrounded by microbes and micro-universes hanging by monofilaments from the ceiling or pinned to the wall. Some are white but most are black. They are made out of the mesh packaging that envelopes fruits and vegetables in the supermarket, as if snagging them in a net. The floor is scattered with pink tubing and aquamarine blooms of stitched and shaped horsehair, a finely woven fabric commonly used in millinery shops. The pieces on the floor, on filaments, pinned to the wall, encompass a body of work she calls Swerve. The largest piece diagonally spans the length of the room, bowed slightly downward like a loose clothesline. It is black and tubular, flared and squeezed and riddled with holes. If you look carefully you can see that it is sectioned like a row of vertebrae. Behind it, hand-size clumps of the netlike vegetable mesh, some exploding outward, others bending inward, cling to the wall like black honeybees. The curves and cylinders of the mesh, which you can look at and into, toss the planar insistence of the netting’s grid into three dimensions, like a computer model of gravitational warp; the shadows they cast fuse the ensemble into contrapuntal rhythms of the solid and the ephemeral. Like Stan Brakhage’s hand painted films, in which the artist’s actions upon an object are transformed into unaccountable visions via the intervention of light, Caroline Cox’s mediation of form, surface, color and shadow signal not merely an object in space but a graphic display of light absorbed, bent, reflected and obscured. In another wall piece, which she retrieves from behind a partition and unwraps from its protective packaging, blue swirls of monofilament spin out in loopy eruptions, unfurling as an endless line endlessly backtracking, a capsule view of infinity. The pink tubing on the floor moves in similar patterns but feels more contained, bristling with circular blossoms of white netting, disks of pierced bridal veils, to decelerate its momentum. It lies counterpoised to the green gatherings of horsehair that eddy and billow like a bed of sea anemones (though soon to be hoisted on monofilaments to clump and dangle in midair): a slithering, visceral riposte to their aqueous synergy; single-mindedness confronting polymorphous inevitability. This is where the line falls away between seeing and doing, the point at which the potential is compacted into the possible, and the possible is channeled into the actual. Fingers squeeze, sew, heat and shape the mesh and fabric into forms intuited by muscle memory — endless series of shapes filtered through mind and eye and arriving in the palm of the hand. The pieces propagate, echo, accrete, ricochet; generating magnetism and resistance, they come together and pry off, the parts needing the whole as anarchists need the state. Step here, you’re engulfed in clouds; there, adrift in a void. The dance between solidity and space encircles your field of vision, slipping inside the shells of your eyes, the membrane between perception and the perceived. It’s there, at the checkpoint of interior and exterior, that the object in space, with its open netting and translucent fabric, becomes its own metaphor. Through layers of shadow and light, sometimes resolving into riots of shards, knobs and openwork arcs, other times into palpable densities of empty air, the artist’s sensitivity and reflection, forethought and riffs, enter the uncertainty of the eyes of others, their memories, impressions and phantasms. The ambiguities can now be counted as both physical and perceptual. The perceptual leave with the viewer, morphing and multiplying; the physical remain as they were, revealing and revealed, obscuring and obscured, armatures and apertures of structure and space.