Francesca Altamura

EXPO40: “Where Things Land”

Selected by Francesca Altamura

The archetype of the artist working in isolation in the studio, self-sequestered from the outside world, is a familiar trope historically, and now one that has become a shared lived experience of millions around the globe. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, artists were able to choose periods of self-imposed solitude, as and when necessary, for tapping into the wellsprings of their creative process, seeking enlightenment in the “void,” and just getting their work done. Today, when confinement for many means lowering their risk of catching a deadly virus, i.e. basic survival, garnered from staying put in the comfort of the home (speaking, of course, only to those fortunate enough to have a “work-from-home” job), artists are perhaps most well-equipped and practiced in the art of long-term isolation and keen observation.

The title of the online exhibition, “Where Things Land,” is taken from a painting by artist Nicole Santiago, and speaks to gritty everyday realities, the randomness and happenstance of quotidian life, as it is often actually lived, especially in less than ideal spaces and circumstances. Twelve artists from 10 cities were selected for b.j. spoke gallery’s juried open call, EXPO, during its landmark 40th year. Many of the works on view depict close quarters and the physicality of the everyday — the hand of someone sleeping off a meal of Chinese takeout, the exposed feet of someone showering in a space shared with a companion, the swill of an overcrowded office desk with its loose cigarettes, empty coffee cups, and PBR cans, the sight of hot cheese spilling out from the center of a grilled cheese sandwich — depictions which are now, more than ever, extremely relatable. In this strange and disquieting time for both creatives and the rest of us, other works, depicting life beyond the four walls, may invoke longing and even nostalgia for a time, not so long ago, where life was lived shoulder to shoulder, amongst the hustle and bustle, and mostly outside the confines of home or