RAIR | 2017-18
Rachel Grobstein | Brooklyn, NY
Rachel Grobstein received her MFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2013 and her BA in Philosophy and Visual Arts from Bowdoin College in 2006. She has been awarded a Studios of Key West residency, a Vermont Studio Center Full Fellowship supported by the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Graduate Fellowship and Honors from RISD, and the Sitings Prize for a site-specific installation at the RISD Museum. Her most recent exhibition was a two-person show at Ulterior Gallery in New York City. She lives and works in Brooklyn.
Left to its own devices, vision...overlooks ninety percent of the world in order to follow the tracks laid down for vision by the world’s definition of spectacle, and by its own desires. [...] Still life loves the ‘so what’.
Come on baby you gotta keep those dreams burnin’.
- Suicide, “Dream Baby Dream”
The main project in this exhibition is a catalogue of miniature tableaus based on the objects from people’s bedside tables.
I began by asking friends for pictures of their nightstands, and later expanded the series to include a wide circle of people in Roswell and beyond. I have long been interested in how people’s collections create snapshot biographies, and I became fascinated by the wide array of objects kept on bedside tables, where tissues and receipts from the day are jumbled alongside souvenirs, prescriptions, cherished mementos, lotion, and so on. Items to screen out the world (earplugs, eye masks, white noise machines, sleeping pills) are kept alongside those that invite the world in (radios, TV remotes, iPads, clocks, phones). Journals and self-help books are stacked next to magazines and paperbacks.
We spend about a third of our lives asleep: what are the last things we want to see or touch before drifting off, and what do we want watching over us or within arm’s reach when at our most physically vulnerable? These bedside collections speak to universal themes, from memory and self care to sex and dreams. But they also create complicated individual portraits of their owners, in contrast with the more idealized and narrowly curated collections one might find on a coffee table or other public space in a home.
These tableaus engage with the tradition of still life, cataloguing a daily world where routine meets consumer culture, physical necessity, and personal history. I love the idea that still life inverts what we often consider unimportant. “Attention by itself is an enlarging glass,” writes Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space. The miniature itself also makes an appeal for close scrutiny through a radical shift in scale.
Also included in this exhibition are works made of constellations of cut, painted paper that engage more broadly with themes of collections, dreams, space junk, mythology, and the stuff of daily life. These are installed directly into the wall with pins, creating a subtle architecture of shadows and playfully referencing natural specimens.