Art Review: Double Yellow Line, by Danielle Julian Norton at Angela Meleca Gallery
“A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
It’s a proverb we were familiar with long before Marie Kondo and her exhortations to tidy up burst into popular consciousness. It’s also an adage you might keep in mind as you view Double Yellow Line, the gallery specific exhibition of works by Danielle Julian Norton at Angela Meleca Gallery.
And why not aspire to tidy up, to organize? If that advice doesn’t resonate today, I’m not sure when it would. Look no further than our current government for all the apoplexy-inducing proof we need that order, structure, tidiness and reliability are woefully lacking. Is it any surprise then that we’re compelled to seek some kind of order in this otherwise chaotic world? Not really. At its heart, the drive to order is a drive to sense-making. It’s a way for us to hold the world still long enough to try and extract patterns and meaning from it.
From that perspective, Double Yellow Line provides both a soothing respite (for it is quite orderly and very calming) as well as an object lesson in how unwieldy order can be. Norton’s works are spare, but infused with so many strategic splashes of color and texture that they continually surprise. The palette is subdued, but offered in such way that every jolt of color is amplified. The patterns repeat, but with the effect of drawing connections between the works in a cohesive and meaningful way.
Further, Nolan manages to find a place for everything. All manner of delicately carved nooks and crannies provide nest-like homes for everything from tiny earrings to carved broccoli stalks. Double Yellow Line is a show that offers “a place for everything,” even if the relationship between those “everythings” isn’t always clear or evident.
Then there are the materials: ceramics, bricks, beads, tiles, and unfinished wood. Humble and foundational as they are, these materials allude to what we might call the democratization of creation. That is, the materials stand as reminders that we, as individuals, as end-users, can still construct the world we envision; that we have the tools and materials to shape the world we want. That’s a powerful lesson in an age where we’ve become more and more willing to cede control to technologies that we’ve neither mastered nor completely understand.
This idea of shaping our world is particularly evident in Stage for a Blank Memory, a piece inspired in part by the design and ethos of architect Ken Isaacs and his Beach Matrix. Of course, there’s more going on than pure functionality in Norton’s work. It’s a playful, riddle of a piece that’s part stage, part performance, and part peepshow.
To that point, it’s impossible to sidle up to Stage… and peer voyeur-like into its center without flashbacks of Duchamp’s Étant donnés. And while that may be an unfair comparison given Etant donnes’ infamy, Stage… holds its own. The interior views are effective not so much for the shock value (spoiler alert: they’re not particularly shocking), but for the general unease that comes from not knowing exactly what you’re looking at or even if you’re supposed to be looking at all.
Other works conjure up similarly enigmatic notions. Norton once shared that she aspired to works that make people happy and confused. I expect that still holds true. Is Master Basket an elevation of weaving to the top step of art’s pecking order, or a wry comment on the Sisyphean nature of laundry? Do Psychic Shelves celebrate our ability to classify and categorize objects, or mourn our unwillingness to see connections between them? I’m not sure there are right answers. The important thing is that we’re willing to ask questions.
In Double Yellow Line Danielle Julian Norton offers work that provides a refreshing blend of whimsy and gravitas. It’s work that’s enlightening, without being pedantic; thoughtful without taking itself too seriously; and accessible without being pandering. Would that the rest of our world could be so well balanced and ordered.
Double Yellow Line is on view at Angela Meleca Gallery through Feb. 16.
Danielle Julian Norton will give an artist talk at the gallery on Feb. 2 from 2 to 3 p.m.