Ellen Lesperance’s “Together we lie in ditches and in front of machines”
              ​R.H. Lossin
              Let us begin with the grid: flat, rational, anti-mimetic, static. The grid, writes Rosalind E. Krauss, “announces […] modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, narrative, discourse.” If the grid can be said to represent anything, Krauss argues, it is the two-dimensional surface of the canvas itself. Nine new gouache- and graphite-on-paper works by the Portland-based Ellen Lesperance present us with evidence to the contrary. Lesperance’s grids are not austere or empty—the hand-drawn graphite lines hold layered squares of color that combine to produce, from a certain distance, the appearance of tightly woven tapestry. But they are still, insistently, grids—the lines are visible and the shapes emerge from a series of squares whose boundaries are observed. What differs from Krauss’s evaluation here is not the grid itself but its function. These grids speak. Their content is historical, narrative, real. Far from being silent, these artworks are a condensed, formal expression of years of research into feminist, anti-nuclear activism. In 1981, the Welsh group “Women for Life on Earth” walked from Cardiff to Greenham Common in Berkshire, England to protest the installment of ninety-six Cruise nuclear missiles. The protest turned into an encampment—the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp—that remained …

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