If, and Only If

March 6 – March 9
Curator: Peter Johnson
Artists: David Stapleton, Hannah Murphy

What does it mean for something to be true? Is it based on subjective phenomenological experience, objective facts or an analytic logical structure that governs our universe? In humankind’s quest for truth and meaning, the category itself has been dynamic, with religious, political and scientific institutions each leading the way at times through the course of history. Calling into question how we experience the world around us and the systems by which we do so, Hannah Murphy and David Stapleton employ sculpture in radical ways to allow for an understanding of the human condition and its morality.

Murphy’s sculptures work collectively to create an alien landscape of disparate utilitarian objects. Her work is united around the theme of collapse: collapse of the physical environment, of our political milieu and even threat of the individual self. Found and organic materials are preserved through traces of community practice – sewing, knotting and tying: survival tactics. A closer look at the windsock of Murphy’s rover sculpture reveals its extraneous decoration and non-utilitarian qualities. Indeed, her entire sculptural practice is satire in its slapstick appearance, a searing critique of current environmental policy and demands an immediacy with which action needs to be taken. Murphy’s sculptures are artifacts, leveraging the truth of materiality in each element, yet in amalgamation rendered ineffective in utility. Littered with these paradoxes, Murphy intentionally aims to confuse, incite debate, and foster introspection in and amongst viewers, drawn from her belief that without active critical engagement of the world around us, artifacts like the ones before us might be all that is left behind to prove the trace of our existence.

As Murphy’s sculptures teeter on fragility, beckoning preservation before decay, David Stapleton’s stark and immutable semantic sculptures command presence yet beget absence given their digital medium. Stapleton is interested in bridging the arts and sciences through his artistic practice of creating geometric diagrams of structures from analytic logic, the philosophical discipline concerned with the general laws of truth. Using language as his muse, and specifically the structure of sentences with connectives – such as the words AND or OR – which link one clause to the next, Stapleton creates interpretation systems to demonstrate the plurality with which statements can be deemed true. These digital sculptures are infinite in scope and illustrate language’s immense complexity and vast utility. Yet in the projection’s infinity, Stapleton also takes care to animate them and highlight their intricacies, each individual interpretation subtly unique and defined, suggesting that through language’s boundless utility, precise construction is singular and deliberate.

Drawing comparisons between Stapleton and Murphy, we begin to question the nature of truth itself and whether its analytic laws, seemingly unchanging in their form, are themselves malleable and socially constructed, governed by time, place and space. In capturing the zeitgeist of “fake news” while war is waged over authenticity, Murphy and Stapleton have left the audience pondering how we present ourselves through the truths we adhere to and what we leave behind to be interpreted for generations to come.

From left to right: artist Hannah Murphy, artist David Stapleton, curator Peter Johnson

Artist Hannah Murphy

Artist David Stapleton

Photos by A. Leonardo Amiri