Continuing through July 27, 2015
Sarah HaBa’s delicate and contemplative watercolors on paper depict that very material: bound paper, books, notebooks, and popup books. They are rendered with neutral monochrome hues in a low contrast reminiscent of Luc Tuymans. The books and spiral binders lie open, or stacked on top of one another, against a bare background that fills the picture plane. Shadows suggest the presence of natural light, making the point that these objects, ephemeral as they appear, must be seen as real, not as metaphysical ideas outside of reality. The precision and simplicity HaBa displays is stunning, as is the conception to reduce the items to their basic form. There are no visible titles, words, or text of any kind. Restraint combined with control produces a type of minimalism via painting that privileges the idea of what makes the printed and written word possible. Her work also considers how essential the solitary act of reading and writing remains.
On another level, the empty pages symbolize the transitory nature of memory and fleeting ideas that escape from us with the passage of time. The notion of the physical book being threatened with extinction by the digital is implicit in the artist’s renderings. The manner in which HaBa captures and immortalizes the present moment feels like an act of advocacy: this is an endangered species that must be preserved. In the witty “Fallen Stack,” several books lay over themselves like so many dominos. As often happens after bookends give way and the books slide down, we’re left with a view of their spines. HaBa inverts this perspective by configuring all the books in the show from the position of the reader — who in this case is also the viewer.