Gelah Penn received a Tree of Life Individual Artist Grant in 2016 for Documentation and Experimentation.
Gelah Penn’s work expands the language of drawing in sculptural space through site-responsive installations and works on paper. Her work has been exhibited widely, including solo and group exhibitions at the National Academy Museum (New York, NY); Brattleboro Museum (Brattleboro, VT); Itami Museum of Arts and Crafts (Itami, Japan); Bibliotheque Municipale Louis Nucera (Nice, France); Lori Bookstein Fine Art; Sculpture Center; Smack Mellon; Jason McCoy Gallery (New York, NY); Carl Berg Projects (Los Angeles, CA); Real Art Ways (Hartford, CT); and Vox Populi (Philadelphia, PA). Her work is in the collections of the Columbus Museum (Columbus, GA), Weatherspoon Art Museum (Greensboro, NC), Brooklyn Museum Library (Brooklyn, NY) and Cleveland Institute of Art/Gund Library (Cleveland, OH), and has been reviewed in numerous publications, including Art in America, The New York Times, artcritical.com, The Brooklyn Rail and a feature in Sculpture Magazine. Penn has received fellowships from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. The artist has lived and worked in New York City since 1979.
Having made ephemeral, site-responsive installations for nearly two decades, I feel it is now essential to produce a catalogue documenting these elaborate pieces. Seeing such works de-installed and “disappeared” after much time and effort is not easy. I envision the process of developing a catalogue as in some way mirroring the process of installation, i.e., the catalogue’s design (the site), and the selection and placement of images (the installation). I plan to collaborate with a designer, and ask at least two writers to contribute essays or some other form of writing to the catalogue. I hope that the dissemination of these catalogues will stimulate additional interest in the work and lead to opportunities for new projects.
At the same time, my examination of the language of drawing in sculptural space continues apace, and I am continually experimenting with new materials and methods. The nature of drawing in these pieces is formed and informed by the materials I use. For example, when exploring an expressionistic vocabulary in my earlier installations, I became obsessed with colored monofilament. Later, searching for materials to construct more geometric gestures with a noirish undertow, I used stretched mosquito netting and silicone tubing. Most recently, I’ve incorporated large swathes of painted plastic tarps and translucent synthetic paper to delineate fluid expanses of marks, with allusions ranging from the theatrical to the forensic. Additional support to assist in these material investigations will be a tremendous boost to my practice.