Invisible Citings, a collaborative project by artists Jeanne Silverthorne and Elaine Reichek, explores text, trust, and invisibility. As the “Gutenberg age” ends and digital technologies replace reams of paper with glowing screens, this exhibition considers the persistence of the analog and the physical manifestations of writing as material and medium. Weaving Silverthorne’s sculpture and Reichek’s embroidery together with classic literature, Invisible Citings addresses themes of the legible and obscured, text and textile, illumination and luminescence, archiving and discarding.
Jeanne Silverthorne, celebrated for cast rubber sculptures of mundane objects that reflect a deep awareness of art history and evoke human emotion, presents numerous casts of a standard-sized file storage box for Invisible Citings. Each cast rubber box contains a stack of one thousand apparently blank letter-sized pages. On some of the sheets, however, Silverthorne has copied in invisible ink, in her own handwriting, a text on some theme of invisibility. Examples include classic works such as a chapter from Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Albertine Workout by Anne Carson, and “Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Some of these paper-filled boxes will be open and illuminated with ultraviolet light so that viewers may investigate for themselves whether or not the pages are blank or contain text in invisible ink.
Elaine Reichek’s provocative hand stitchings combine image and text to rethink the role of craft in the fine arts and investigate alternative narratives that have been excluded from the art historical canon. For Invisible Citings, she draws from texts that comment on themes of invisibility to create several embroideries that reconceive conventions of ink on paper as sewn thread on linen. Excerpted texts include “O May I Join the Choir Invisible” by George Eliot, passages from The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and selections from writings by Elena Ferrante. Unlike Silverthorne’s virtually unreadable writings, however, Reichek’s are visibly attached to and pulled through surfaces of woven linen, materially rejoining “text” to its etymological sibling, “textile.” Many of these embroideries also employ a glow-in-the-dark thread, a parallel to Silverthorne’s compromised legibility. The phosphorescent thread may be only fully seen in the dark or under ultraviolet light, just as Silverthorne’s ink remains invisible without the aid of the ultraviolet spectrum.
Together and in their respective contributions, Silverthorne and Reichek play with how invisible thought becomes materialized. Each artist complicates the ancient, simple, yet laboriously learned skill of conveying language through handwriting. Both artists engage in a kind of reverse transcription, privileging pre-modern forms of appropriation and compilation far slower than the instantaneity promised by today’s digital and photographic technologies. In reversing or frustrating the inscription and transmission of language, Silverthorne and Reichek hope to create a transitional space for looking, reading, and contemplation.