The Lower East Side’s newest outpost Next to Nothing Gallery launched their program in May with new works by New York-based artists Justen Ladda and Brigitte Engler. Artists with similar philosophies, both Engler and Ladda investigate metaphysical concepts including transformation, process, physicality and mark-making.
An inherent initial draw of Justen Ladda’s elliptical “mirrors” is their reflective quality – as proven time and again, one of the aspects of looking that spectators enjoy most is (literally) seeing themselves in art – but the staying power of his mirrors lies in the delicate sparkle that comes from layered metal-leaf and paint. Ladda’s process of layering metal-leaf, paint and resin accentuates the wood grain, deepens it almost, appearing as minuscule canyons twisting through the cedar wood base of the mirror.
Similarly, Brigitte Engler draws attention to often-overlooked aspects of our surrounding world. Created via the strenuous frottage rubbing technique, Engler explores the hidden beauty of sidewalk graffiti. Even more labor- intensive is the process from rubbing to canvas – Engler utilizes handmade paper for the rubbings and seals them with beeswax.
Their separate but conceptually similar process-oriented techniques prompt viewers to engage in a guided meditation – it’s a contemplative show. This theme is developed further by the fact that both Ladda and Engler are influenced by Tai Chi and Chinese scholar rocks. One of the more interesting installations in the show is a Chinese scholar rock, of the gallery owner’s personal collection, mounted in front of a starkly black mirror by Ladda, displayed opposite an enormous tapestry by Engler – a moment that truly brings both artists into conversation with each other.
This and That: Justen Ladda and Brigitte Engler provides an introspective experience that showcases how process-oriented work brings meditation off the canvas and into the viewer’s experience. The show is on view through June 24th, at Next to Nothing Gallery, 181 Orchard St, New York.
Stephanie Black is a Brooklyn-based writer and creative collaborator. Influenced by history, vintage style, psychology and pop science, her work incorporates a multidisciplinary approach and maintains an influence of personal narrative.