April 27th - June 17th, 2012
Opening reception: Friday, April 27th, 7-10pm
Gallery Hours: Thursdays & Fridays 3-6pm, Saturdays & Sundays 12-6pm
The fibers of art and magic are woven so tightly together, it’s often said that they are one and the same. Images are imaginal pictures. When we see something, a constellation of synapses fires, associations swirl, and new thoughts are born. We are altered - and what is magic, if not this?
That said, there is a long lineage of artists who, quite literally, created spells via drawings on the floor, scrawls in books, lines cut into wood or stone. Though the featured players of this story are often English magicians from John Dee to Austin Osman Spare to Alan Moore, symbol-based magic can be traced back through the ages and across cultures. Germanic runes were carved into objects and later used as vehicles of divination. Hindu yantras and Buddhist mandalas are meditative, microcosmic diagrams meant to elevate the mind to the spiritual plane, and Kabbalistic letters are infinite layer-cakes of mystic meaning. The well-placed glyph can bless a birth, or curdle mother’s milk. A ring of certain characters can summon a demon, and the right number-grid can allow communion with the angels. Excavated from grimoires, handed down from teachers both living and dead, these are powerful emblems that act upon the fabric of the universe.
As such, the works in Sigils & Signs are agents of change. By using occult symbols from various traditions and times, each artist explores what it means to be a magician in the modern age: to emblazon sigils upon the energy field; to make magic marks. While these artworks may be appreciated for their aesthetic value – and oh how valuable they are – the viewer is invited to engage with each piece on the immaterial level. Whether protective or contemplative, refueling or revealing, these “wall spells” are cast with careful beauty and the intention to transform.
About the Curator
Pam Grossman is an independent curator and lifelong student of magical practice and history. She is the creator of Phantasmaphile, a blog which specializes in art and culture with an esoteric or fantastical bent, and the Associate Editor of Abraxas International Journal of Esoteric Studies. As co-founder of Observatory, her programming aims to explore mysticism via a scholarly yet accessible approach. Her group art shows, Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists, VISION QUEST, and Alchemically Yours have been featured by such outlets as Boing Boing, CREATIVE TIME, Time Out New York, Juxtapoz, Arthur, 20×200, UrbanOutfitters.com, and Neil Gaiman’s Twitter. She lectures on such topics as The Occult in Modern Art 101, and teaches classes on herbalism and ritual. She is a graduate of New York University, where she studied anthropology, art history, and religious studies. A resident of Brooklyn, she lives with her playwright husband, Matt, and their two cat familiars, Albee and Remedios “Remy” Varo.
About the Gallery
Observatory is an art and events space in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Founded in February 2009 and run by a group of seven artists and bloggers, the space seeks to present programming inspired by the 18th century notion of “rational amusement” and is especially interested in topics residing at the interstices of art and science, history and curiosity, magic and nature. The space hosts screenings, lectures, classes, and exhibitions, and is part of the Proteus Gowanus art complex. It is located at 543 Union Street (at Nevins), and is accessed through Proteus Gowanus Gallery’s entrance. Observatory’s gallery hours are 3-6pm on Thursdays and Fridays; and 12-6pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
For sales or media inquiries, please contact Pam Grossman: phantasmaphile [at] gmail.com
Show image: Jesse Bransford, “Every Man and Woman is a Star” detail, 2008