Before even entering Ruth Bachofner Gallery, a striking installation, pitch black against the white walls of the gallery, hanging just inside the entrance, beckons. An ornamental gate strung sideways, reborn in what at first appears to be a type of rubbery substance, curls around itself in a most improbable manner. Upon closer inspection, the work is made from a far more delicate material–paper, which has been meticulously hand cut by Los Angeles-based artist Margaret Griffith, to echo the decorative iron gates found throughout her Highland Park neighborhood. Entering into the gallery, the theme first experienced through Coringa (all works cited 2012) is further explored in works ranging from the seemingly straightforward chain link style of HP 5 to the Rococo ornamentation found in HP 2. Throughout the exhibition, the fragility of material from which the gates are made suggests the vulnerability of our own constructed boundaries and any protection they may seem to offer.
This is not Griffith’s first thematic exploration of barriers, natural and man-made. Previously, the artist investigated the notion through grid-inspired renderings in watercolor pencil and ink on paper, creating abstracted illusions of spatial relationships on the two-dimensional picture plane to be looked at. In this series, which Griffith began in 2011, she replaces optical illusion with the constructed object to be looked into and around. Viscerally engaging through their size and installation, these works upend the function of the fence, often quite literally, in works such as the elevated, rolled and suspended Canopy. Griffith also uses “the gate” to evoke art critic and theorist Rosalind Krauss’s writing on “the Grid.” She recasts what is traditionally seen as a barrier into the role, in the artist’s words, of a staircase. What was once confining becomes elevating in Griffith’s hands; the static nature of the grid is unfurled, even as it spins, furls and folds in on itself.