Review by Rebecca Lewin
L’Usine Abandonnée (the abandoned factory) was the title of a small but perfectly formed exhibition of new works by Katie Schwab and Rosanna Mclaughlin. The venue was LimaZulu, a project space run by a group of artists including Schwab and Mclaughlin in a section of the warehouse where they work.
The exhibition took as its inspiration a comic strip from the 1980s, which was used to teach French to English schoolchildren. It told the story of a group of kids who discover the ‘abandoned factory’ of the titleand have all kinds of adventures in it before it is demolished. Schwab and Mclaughlin were tickled by the similarity between the fictional story and the experience of discovering their own abandoned warehouse, creating spaces within it to work and play, and the relationship that both of these activities have with the process of making art.
Mclaughlin’s approach to scale has a subtle Alice in Wonderland effect; from a hand-knotted friendship bracelet, to a builder’s reflective gilet hanging on a trolley, to a small cast of a classical head, a sense of surprise reoccurs as soon as we comprehend what is slightly odd about each object. The friendship bracelet reaches from floor to ceiling and suddenly becomes a Jacob’s Ladder or a strand of DNA; the gilet and trolley would fit a builder of giant-like stature, and the classical head (which has been hammered directly into the floor) has a downturned mouth. Each of her objects becomes signifiers for a fragment of a body, and by Mclaughlin’s own description characters in themselves.
Schwab has produced a gloriously colourful acrylic frame (O Sister), but the photograph within it is another nod to the partial or absent body; cropped around the torsos of three young women, we are shown a blissful ménage-a-trois of arms and t-shirts that resists explanation. Nearby a stack of tiles betraying the moulded rings of long-forgotten coffee cups appears to have been excavated from a previous dwelling and waits to be recognised as important archaeological evidence. Its title 2012 transforms the mould into Olympic symbols, and this idea of potential movement residing in signs carries through into Jazz. Taking the form of a mobile with letters hanging from it, it is actually unable to move; we must perform a little dance around it in order to realise that it spells out its own title.
It is evident that both these artists have much to say about the artistic possibilities to be found in the gaps between gallery space and workspace and between what is shown and what is absent. That they have the tact and subtlety not to say too much or too loudly is what made L’Usine Abandonnéesuch a successful show.