- Source: ARTFORUM
- Author: Lauren O’Neill-Butler
- Date: APRIL 2023
- Format: PRINT
Through a tripartite cycle of exceptional films made over the past seven years, Eve Fowler has surrounded herself with women working. Shot on 16 mm, the black-and-white with it which it as it if it is to be, 2016, portrays artists doing what they do in their studios, day in and day out. For part II, 2019, she focused more explicitly on women artists thriving during their “late career” phases and on the breakthroughs that still occur therein. The third piece in the filmic trifecta, Labor, 2023, is a nine-channel video installation showing close-up views of her subjects’ hands. For her debut solo exhibition at Gordon Robichaux, Fowler presented this work as a grid of flat-screen monitors attached to poles that extended from floor to ceiling. The installation depicts, variously, Leilah Babirye brandishing a blowtorch, Jennie Jieun Lee drawing judiciously on ceramics, and Sara VanDerBeek painting on a photograph. A slew of other short vignettes feature Kelly Akashi, Isabelle and Lita Albuquerque, Fiona Connor, Jean Foos, Aimee Goguen, Samara Golden, Kate Hall, Siobhan Liddell, Nevine Mahmoud, Reverend Joyce McDonald, Liliana Porter, Adee Roberson, Ana Tiscornia, Uman, Faith Wilding, and Rosha Yaghmai engaged with different types of making. Though silent, Labor speaks volumes about the determination of women on virtually every single front, despite the threats they face to their livelihoods and liberties on an ongoing basis.
Fowler is well known for her celebrated collaborations: In 2008 she cofounded, with Lucas Michael, Artist Curated Projects, an organization whose mission involves fostering opportunities for underrepresented artists to develop their curatorial skills and ideas in order to exhibit the work of their peers. Throughout Fowler’s presentation here, a similar intergenerational, feminist, and queer communal ethos could be found, including the artist’s mentioning of the production team behind Labor—Rhys Ernst, Mariah Garnett, Michael, and Olivia Ambrosia Taussig-Rees—in the press release. Many of these people also worked on Florence Derive, 2023, a 16-mm color film transferred to video that was projected here onto a large wall. After reading Derive’s autobiographical essay, “The History of Herstory,” published in 2011 by the online journal Seymour Magazine, Fowler embarked on this stunning, nearly twelve-minute meditation (which she made with additional assistance from Clément and Léonard de Hollogne). In the piece, the trans artist stares straight into the camera without a trace of inhibition while sitting in her Paris studio. An audio recording of Derive reading her text in French plays, in which she recounts growing up in “sheltered environments . . . filled with warmth and wonders” and the many beautiful afternoons she spent with her grandmother in Nantes, France. Later, she describes a homophobic teacher whose harassment led to her being expelled from school, and the gradual realization that she was always a girl, inside and out.
Rounding out the show were eight testimonial-style collages from 2022 that are part of an ongoing body of work. For these pieces—constructed from blocky green, yellow, and blue hand-cut letters mounted on white paper and echoing the style of previous text-based objects—Fowler drew from her diurnal practice of jotting down various observations. Most of the works resembled concrete poetry: For instance, one read THE BUZZ IS HIGH PITCHED TODAY THERE ARE CARS AND BIRDS AND THAT IS ALL, while another asserted GOD IS AND WAS A WOMAN. Amen to that.
As we yet again face a divisive, partisan culture war in the United States, bolstered by Republican demagoguery and the party’s attacks on fundamental human rights, Fowler’s art reminds us that the most important political platform for our creative work exists at the level of everyday life, where it can unfurl quietly, collectively, and subversively.