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Precarious Arrangements

Angela Piehl

April 7 –  May 21, 2017  |  Main Gallery

Exhibition Statement

Angela Piehl’s work addresses luxury, accumulation, and alienation from nature.  Piehl considers these topics from a gendered perspective, and her images create allegorical and narrative allusions regarding identity, loneliness, opulent decay and the underbelly of human nature.

Piehl abstracts and re-combines elaborately decorative elements with organic material like hair, tentacles, eggs, bone, crystalline structures and wood. Images Piehl crafts contain synthetic representations of nature and natural beauty through quotation of decoration and design tropes.  This artifice and irony is additionally layered into her content through color choices, use of pattern, and textural artifice.

Piehl layers imagery using an intuitive sense of aesthetic relationships, hybridizing different aesthetic orders (synthetic and organic, flora and fauna, decoratively abstract and figuratively monstrous) as a means of further emphasizing and contrasting visual information, as well as human relationships to these orders.

Piehl’s visual intermingling creates biomorphic abstractions with inherent narrative qualities; grotesque creatures imbibed with the power to both attract and repel, and the potential to host projections of human emotion and desire. These feral bouquets are simultaneously engaging and seductive, while repellent and abject. Ultimately, Piehl’s emphatic commitment to a wide range of source imagery leads to an eccentric abstraction, rejecting barriers and boundaries.


Curator’s Essay

Angela Piehl is a gatherer. And she reminds us that the impulse to gather—as well as to arrange and order—is intrinsically human. It is this impulse towards collecting information and its connection to human nature that informs not only the source materials for her paintings and drawings but also her creative practice.

Each work begins with Piehl’s mining of lifestyle/design print media, scientific illustrations; found objects; wallpaper and textile patterns. The process continues until the accumulation reaches a critical mass.

The resulting abstract images, layered with rich visual textures, contain allegorical and narrative allusions that address the human condition. This layering of visual content gives multiple access points through glimpses of recognizable elements, while simultaneously challenging the viewer to relate to the seemingly familiar in new ways. As a result, Piehl’s compositions provide a hybrid context of elaborately ornate and subtly suggestive compositions through which to consider the relationships between that which is decorative and that which is organic—and what those relationships can mean to us.

In Precarious Arrangements, Piehl considers luxury, accumulation, and alienation from nature. Piehl’s conglomerations of elaborate yet abstracted elements (constructed from images and photographs of idealized beauty, both fabricated and natural) result in strange new forms and environments that are bound together through tenuous and perhaps unnatural forces. Precarious Arrangements not only communicates this tenuous construction: it additionally alludes to ecological fragility, and mankind’s precarious situation within that ecology.

Piehl’s reference to organic materials such as flesh, hair, tentacles, eggs, fat, bone, muscle, crystalline structures, and wood—alongside her choices of color, pattern, and textural artifice—produces evocative spaces and forms that are at once engaging and seductive, while also repellent and abject. Her images function as creature-like arrangements, or alternately, spaces that can be read in several diverging ways. Are these dark environments internal, a place in the body, or are they the relic of a future environmental collapse at a micro scale?

It is in the works’ unabashed beauty that the artist’s range and use of reference material—from organic matter to opulent embellishment and synthetic colors—can best be seen as an illustration of her desire to create connections between accumulation and alienation from nature.

Additionally, the layered abstracted imagery results in works that highlight the dualistic nature of the artist’s intent and her hybridization of aesthetic orders: synthetic and organic, flora and fauna, bodily and constructed forms, decoratively abstract and figuratively monstrous. The resulting visual ambiguity is an invitation for the viewer to extend their gaze in order to decipher the source material.

The viewer is asked to question preconceived notions about nature and beauty, and acknowledge the complex realizations that such questions can evoke. Through her collecting, classifications, and compositions, Angela Piehl has invited her audience to actively look at and categorize what they see for themselves and to ultimately consider their own relationships to the natural world.

Artist Bio

Angela Piehl is an artist, and an Associate Professor of Painting, Drawing, and Digital Art. Her work has exhibited widely, in national, international, juried and invitational exhibitions.

Recent solo exhibitions include Feral Beauty and Opulent Decay at the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, Unnatural Order at the Oklahoma City Capitol Gallery, Lonely Hunters at the Lawndale Art Center in Houston, Angela Piehl: Drawings at the Indianapolis Art Center, Organic Excess at ARC Gallery in Chicago, and Curiosities of the Floating World at Chashama Gallery in New York.

Piehl has been included in 2 person exhibitions at Colorado StateUniversity, Appalachian State University, and Artspace Gallery in Raleigh, NC. Other significant exhibitions include recent 3 person exhibition at Antenna Gallery in New Orleans, and a group drawing exhibition at CUNY affiliated Lehman College in New York.

Piehl’s paintings and drawings are part of the Kala Art Institute’s Permanent Collection in Berkeley, CA, the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art’s Print Collection, and the New Mexico State University Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection.

Piehl has participated in many public lectures addressing her work and research at various conferences, exhibition panel lectures, and at galleries, museums and universities across the country.

Piehl has participated in several highly competitive Artist Residency programs, such as Jentel, Kala Art Institute, Vermont Studio Center, and Chashama.

Piehl’s work has been supported with grant funding through Oklahoma State University Arts & Sciences Travel Grants, and multiple Oklahoma Visual Arts Council Grants.


Curator Bio

Mary Mikel Stump is the Director of Exhibitions at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas. In that role, she is responsible for all curatorial programming within the School, as well as the creative leadership of the nationally recognized exhibition program. Previously, she held the position of Director and Curator of The University Galleries at Texas State University. During her twenty-year career, Stump has curated and presented a diverse array of solo and group exhibitions, public programming, visiting artists’ lectures, panels, workshops, and symposia relative to contemporary art. She also served as adjunct faculty Texas State University while concurrently serving in her role leading the galleries. In addition to a variety of writing projects for exhibition catalogs and exhibitions-in-print, Stump has published papers and presented at regional, national, and international museum and arts-related conferences. With a background in architectural design, as well as studio art, she is keenly interested in the intersection of art and design and the ways that materials inform conceptual development and the creative process. Stump holds a MA in Museum Studies from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and a BFA in Studio Art from Texas State University, which she completed after studying in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.