Monday, September 19, 2011

numbers game

Karen Shaw: Quantum Gravy
Islip Art Museum
 Opening reception: Sunday, September 25, 2-5pm  

The artist in Karen Shaw began to emerge in the 1970s as she mulled over a stack of grocery receipts that lay across her Long Island kitchen table. Applying a simple rubric to these random numbers, she began to make cryptographic poems in which arbitrary sums were composed into pithy word aggregates. The poetry found its way on to bingo cards, supermarket flyers, football jerseys and lottery tickets. Selected works are on view through November 13th in Karen Shaw: Quantum Gravy at Islip Art Museum.

Her Summantic Vocabulary codified numbers and words with a simple equation:  A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, and so on. Like Gematria, an ancient Cabbalistic form of numerology in which Hebrew letters are translated into number equivalents and then used to decode sacred texts and ancient manuscripts, Shaw's word amalgamates seemed to expose the hidden truths and deeper meanings that lay outside the margins of popular culture.

Rejigging the ironies of life and history has become second nature for Shaw, whose visual tropes are cheeky and smart. Definitely worth a trip to Islip Art Museum.

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