Catalog essay for Carrie Ungerman's participation
in the 2007 City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs Individual Artist Fellowship Exhibition (COLA)
at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery at Barnsdall Art Park

What just happened? There was one thing, but here’s this, right now, a new image, something as yet unknown. A page was turned. Something was completed. Desires anew were created. The mind sent impulses. Fingers were activated. And now you are here.

Carrie Ungerman’s work addresses the experience of perception with a dominating thought as to how each instant of life is felt as it occurs, as it accumulates, and as it is stored as memory. The work courses much like the practice of breathing; it is not staccato. Ungerman utilizes endlessly repeated artistic movements—perhaps one circular cut in each of hundreds of gel pieces, substantial alliances of small circles painted on Mylar, or the unraveling of thousands of strands of thousands of lengths of thread. Through the accumulation of these actions, she creates a delicate monument. She is not particularly interested in the heroic or grand “memorable” instance, though; she prefers the unremarkable activities we need to build our lives from. For example, the most fundamental infinitely repeated gesture…breathing…we forget about until it becomes constrained. This and similar endlessly recurring gestures add up to the grand substance of a life. Along the way, what do we forget? And what do we remember?

Breath. The fragility of a whisper could knock down many of Ungerman’s installations.

Ungerman’s works are not made static, not “fixed,” seldom sprayed or glued. This is fundamental. How could one honor a fleeting moment if the moment has been firmed in place? In the course of her career, she has achieved several styles of coalescing the materials into a whole. The “hooked-together” works show the interdependence of individuals in a whole. Other installations often “fall into place” instead, and she allows the materials themselves to bind the whole together. The work could not exist were it to be made less temporary and more archival. In this way, Ungerman reflects on the temporary nature of all experience.

Throughout her career Ungerman has incorporated specific materials that extend her vision. By often using underestimated materials that might otherwise be forgotten, she can infuse them with fresh impulses. She drapes thread into encompassing sunsets and waterfalls. Press-on vinyl tape (itself underutilized since the advent of computerized layout) is reborn as a drawing substance and emerges as vast, sweeping, breathy Ohhhh!s. Used plastic bottles are ordered and grouped into a vast, shimmering mountain. When Ungerman uses postconsumer materials, they are embedded with narrative. In the plastic bottles she imagines the residue of thousands of breaths and gulps and ponders if all those quests were sated.

This is optimistic work that insists that while experience may be ephemeral, it should never be meaningless. Ungerman is aware that each instant of life connects us to the grand timeline. We are all made of stardust, after all.

For her C.O.L.A. project, Ungerman will approach the space with a mood to mediate intention and happenstance. Through her familiar method of ordering and accumulating abstracted form, she will realize sculpture that converses with the architecture of the site and explains the negative space it does not occupy. She will all the while continue her sanguine pursuit of glorifying the transient nature of life as we live it.