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exhibition: Helen Mirra: Break camp

dates: 9 November 2006 - 20 January 2007

Peter Freeman Inc. is pleased to present Break camp, Helen Mirra's second solo exhibition with the gallery. Last year Mirra was a guest of the DAAD artist-in-residence program in Berlin, and was working in a studio on the edge of a large forest (the Grunewald) in the westernmost part of the city. The sculptures in the exhibition were made in this context, with fragments of shipping pallets, and pine cones picked up from the forest floor.

These materials appear at ease with each other, while they also evidence their difference - the pallet wood is in a past tense - it shows marks of its previous use value, in commerce and the shipping of goods, and the pine cones, covered in seed scales, are a potential before. Rough, square industrial cuts from the industrial chop saw contrast with the fine, but out-of-square, cuts that Mirra has made with a Japanese hand saw. Mirra's studio practice involves no power tools, and the tone of the works reflects the tone of their making. The small sculptures are quiet, and modestly contemplative, but their benign, impoverished appearance may indeed be misleading: they challenge the idea of what critical work can look like. The sculptures share a grammar, while each makes sense differently.

Mirra's work is often referred to as poetic, and indeed Mirra engages quite directly in relation to poetry, but as shown here, her interest is less in the lyrical than in the metrical. This metricality, even percussiveness, also inflects the three wall works in the smaller gallery, which are made with texts Mirra indexed from a book on deer hunting. The words foreground an inarguably unromantic relation, and with their plosive alliteration, they clarify or parallel the way the sculptures operate. Within both forms there is a given (a source text; shipping pallets) which is evident, as well as decisions made by the artist (editorial; compositional) upon the given. With a keen focus, Mirra's work engages structural and conceptual logics, resulting in a makeshift beauty. The exhibition demands attention without asking for it.

Helen Mirra's recent solo shows include Galerie Nelson, Paris (2006), daadgalerie, Berlin (2006) Meyer Riegger Galerie, Karlsruhe, Germany (2004), the Dallas Museum of Art (2004), and the UC Berkeley Art Museum (2003). This year she also completed a large-scale public project on the University of Chicago campus. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.