Catharine Clark Gallery’s first media exhibit with artist Lenka Clayton features two videos, People in Order – Age (2006) and The Distance I Can Be From My Son (2013). Clayton’s fresh explorations of weighty themes—power, fragility, and the fleeting nature of age—complement the feral, beautiful teenage world portrayed by Josephine Taylor in the main galleries. Lenka Clayton’s formal degrees in both Fine Art and Documentary Filmmaking imbue her videos with a unique, liminal quality, landing her work somewhere between these two disciplines.
Clayton’s People in Order videos show her ability to fold the fundamental element of documentary storytelling into the artistic endeavor of representing and re-framing the shared experience of aging. People in Order – Age is one of a series of four short films that collect and organize hundreds of video portraits of strangers met in cities, towns, and villages across Great Britain. Lenka Clayton and James Price filmed the series over a six-week period, while touring the UK by camper van. The vast majority of the 471 participants filmed were strangers whom the artists met on the street that day. The film series, commissioned by UK Channel 4 Television, was broadcast after the evening news on four consecutive nights in May 2006. Films which complete Clayton & Price’s People in Order series are Birth (24 women from 4 to 41 weeks of pregnancy); Love (48 couples arranged by length of their relationship from 77 years to to 2 weeks); and Home (73 households in descending order of yearly income in British pounds, £400,000 – £3,240). Clayton herself appears in the film at her then current age of 28 years old.
Obstruction is one of Lenka Clayton’s main working materials. She is drawn to ideas that seem herculean: hand-numbering 7,000 stones, finding the 630 people mentioned by name in a single edition of a newspaper, or writing and sending a hand-written letter to every household in the world. The Distance I Can Be From My Son was created by Clayton during her tenure as the official Artist in Resident in Motherhood, a residency structured entirely around the idea of re-framing obstruction. Designed by the artist and funded by the Pittsburgh Foundation, Heinz Endowments and Sustainable Arts Foundation, An Artist Residency in Motherhood takes place inside in an environment traditionally considered inhospitable to the creation of art; the artist’s home and life as a mother of two young children. During the residency (2012 – 2015), Clayton aimed to embrace the fragmented mental focus, exhaustion, nap-length studio time, and countless distractions of parenthood as her working materials and situation, rather than obstacles to be overcome. The film, which features her one-and-a-half year old son Otto running off in a variety of settings, is one of 32 projects completed by Clayton during the residency. While Clayton’s work chronicles the universal experience of the parent and child relationship, her film is also part of larger project. Clayton offers viewers a long-term mental shift that subverts the romanticized notion of the unattached artist and reinterprets motherhood as a valuable site for exploration and artistic production, rather than an invisible, unappreciated labor.
Lenka Clayton | Five thousand and fifty years, two hundred and twenty yard
Exhibition Dates: April 23 – May 28, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 23, 2016 from 12 noon – 2 pm
Catharine Clark Gallery
248 Utah Street
San Francisco, CA 94103