Ashes Denote That Fire Was

16 June - 31 July 2022

Krystel Cárdenas

Fiona Finnegan

Lydia Freier

Daniel Giordano

Lizette Hernandez

Poppy Jones

Anthony Park Kascak

Marin Majić

Tanya Merrill

Estefania Puerta

Luke Silva

Nicholas Sullivan


Ashes denote that Fire was centers fire’s dualistic nature as both a generative and cataclysmic force. From the production of heat to the destruction of land, the artists in this exhibition confront aspects of chaos, survival, passion, and intensity borne from the complex element. 


Lydia Freier’s hillside conflagration expresses havoc and sorrow. Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is referenced in the painting’s title which signals the moment when Ivan is confronted by the fallen angel who both spurs a logic of faith and a skepticism of truth. In Freier’s depiction, the devil peeks from behind a grassy mound, his presence ominous. A less threatening ambiguity is present in Marin Majić’s Worry less. Here he combines materials to render an atmospheric rainforest with a burst of flames springing forth from the center. Colored pencil is used to evoke texture, while saturated oil pigments cultivate a lush colorfield. The tone of this painting remains ambiguous, as it is uncertain whether the blaze is disastrous or instrumental. 


House Fire stages another calamitous scene in which Luke Silva grapples with the ruinous effects of a chance ignition rendered in watercolor. Fiona Finnegan’s disquieting composition doubles down on intimacy and a wildfire at night. She places a shadowy figure at the fore, partially obstructing the scope of the inferno. Daniel Giordano’s Pleasure Pipe LXXII is, alternatively, a celebration of luminosity as he has reconstructed a small blaze by way of orange-tinted Murano glass. He labors to capture a still frame within a flame’s ongoingness, to capture a moment of passion. 


Elsewhere, Poppy Jones’s paintings of candlesticks are reminiscent of Richter’s, both artists emphasizing tranquility in the subject. Lighting a candle is also a mode of control: provoking fire’s energy and limiting its scope to a single wick. Krystel Cárdenas’s and Estefania Puerta’s three dimensional manifestations of the subject also demote the element to its application as a tool. Cardenas uses twisted beeswax to create gossamer configurations whereas Puerta cultivates a situation in which porcelain boots are set atop distinctly arranged coffee grounds. The candle and its fixture are loaded with historical context, whether alight during a church service or setting the mood for a romantic encounter. 


Elemental consideration is also demonstrated in Anthony Park Kascak’s earthenware vessels. Whether collecting water or bolstering a candle's flame, these shapes fulfill primordial acts of service for their users. In keeping with the principle of fire-as-tool, Lizette Hernandez cultivates a return to the source. Her ceramics mimic a post-blaze topography, mirroring a slash-and-burn mode of agriculture. Both artists return to the factor of control by creating containers for natural elements. Fire’s volatility is mitigated by human intervention, an undertaking that can be traced back to the discovery of its practical application as a heat source. 


Stoves are classically understood as vessels for fire production, but with Nick Sullivan’s intervention they become relics and portents of material fragility. His materials contribute to the inherent delicacies of these objects being that they’re assembled from newspaper and treated with charcoal, pigment, oilstick or a combination of the three. Shrunken in scale, the subject becomes objectified and liquidated of its utilitarian value. Tanya Merrill provides a more romantic depiction of the object as expressionistic flames are alight within the wooden appliance. Shades of green swim about in the painting’s background, providing a sense of languor to the scene. 


How is one supposed to contain a spontaneous outburst or else create a body of heat? Humanistic appetite for control is of key interest here. The works on view thus provide interactions with fire’s alchemical potential, religious applications, and markers of ruination. 


- Reilly Davidson



Ashes denote that Fire was —

Revere the Grayest Pile
For the Departed Creature's sake
That hovered there awhile —


Fire exists the first in light
And then consolidates
Only the Chemist can disclose
Into what Carbonates.


- Emily Dickinson







Image: The 14th sign of the Apocalypse: earth and sky are consumed by fire. Livre de la vigne nostre seigneur, 1450-1470, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

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