Saige Rowe’s Textural Video Art

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A still from Rowe’s 2016 video three short physical movements followed by a general lull, which was included in last year’s “Peachtree Industrial.”  

Saige Rowe makes brightly colored videos in which she performs simple movements and actions, such as draping a scarf around her neck or uprooting a patch of grass, in closely framed shots that never fully reveal her face or body to the viewer. Cut off from other contextual clues by the isolated framing, visual components like color, motion, and texture become the most captivating actors in Rowe’s clever, often funny parade of gestures.

Rowe moved back to Conyers, Georgia, after graduating with her BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2015. Her work has been exhibited twice by Species, the artist-run space operated by Erin Jane Nelson and Jason Benson in their studio at Atlanta Contemporary. “Peachtree Industrial,” a 2016 group show curated by Species at the Lower East Side gallery Bodega, featured Rowe’s video three short physical movements followed by a general lull alongside work by such artists as Jiha Moon, Jane Fox Hipple, and Bessie Harvey.

saige rowe three movements
A still from three short physical movements followed by a general lull. 

In that video, Rowe wears vivid orange shorts as she positions a green chair in front of the camera and dons shoes made of green tape. The color of the shoes matches that of both the chair and the backyard where the scene takes place, flattening one kind of visual distinction but foregrounding the objects’ differing textures. In one shot, Rowe picks up a shoe from the seat of the chair and tosses it out of the frame, only to be hit on the seat of her shorts by the shoe as she walks across the yard in the next shot. It is a simple but delightful joke, somehow formally distilled by Rowe’s controlled sense of composition.

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Installation view of Rowe’s video exterior engagements #3 with an untitled quilt installation by Michi Meko at Day & Night Projects.

A similarly amusing moment occurs in the video exterior engagements #3 when the artist’s scarf gets trapped beneath a closed window and she slowly tugs on it until it is yanked inside. At first viewers see this in a close-up exterior shot of the window, but then Rowe demonstrates the action again in a brief sequence seen from the interior. As the title of the video suggests, Rowe’s work investigates the permeability of both physical and formal boundaries. While playful and lively, many of her videos take place in enclosed settings, such as backyards and bedrooms in which the artist is alone. Rowe’s coy presence in these suburban spaces activates the compositional potential of the mundane textures of grass, fabric, and tree bark.

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Installation view of work by Saige Rowe and Michi Meko in “In Time of Silver Rain” at Day & Night Projects.

Rowe’s investment in texture brings a sculptural quality to her video work, something highlighted by the installation of exterior engagements #3 at Day & Night Projects, where it is on view through this Sunday in “In Time of Silver Rain.” For this exhibition curated by Brooklyn’s Selena Gallery, Rowe’s video is projected onto an installation by Michi Meko made from a quilt and wooden buoy. This allows for the projection to collapse textural distinctions between the objects in Rowe’s video and the cloth in Meko’s quilt installation. The effect this creates is reminiscent of the monochromatic flattening that occurs in three physical movements followed by a general lull but brings fresh sculptural dimensions to Rowe’s video work.

“In Time of Silver Rain,” curated by Brooklyn’s Selena Gallery and featuring work by Saige Rowe and Michi Meko, is on view at Day & Night Projects through March 12. 

Logan Lockner is Assistant Editor of  BURNAWAY.

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