With a cascade of glimmering metal suspended in space, Paula Crown pauses an ephemeral moment of rainfall. Freezing Rain, on view in Marlborough Gallery’s Midtown location, joins this installation of stainless steel rain with her Anemos series of chain mail sculptures, their rippling patterns on the wall meant to capture the topography of wind.
Crown only recently had her career shift from real estate business to art, getting an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012. However, she’s gotten off to a quick start — something, it must be said, that’s partly enabled by already having connections and the financial stability to experiment. Her artist statement references the semiotics studies of Charles Sanders Peirce, and much of her multimedia art is about an organization of material to describe something beyond language. Her 2010 “Helicopter Drawings” interpret the feeling of flying in a helicopter, while the 2013 work “Inside My Head: A Contemporary Self Portrait” responds to her experience with migraines and the view into her brain through MRIs. Crown’s most prominent piece is the recently-closed “Transposition: Over Many Miles” in the Miami Design District, an interactive drawing in wood made in collaboration with Theaster Gates’s studio, based on aerial imagery of South Africa.
Freezing Rain developed from digital photographs Crown took of rainstorms, then reinterpreted with positional mapping software, before handcrafting the physical piece of angled points. “For Crown, technology is yet another tool for knowing, beyond language and yet employed today with similarly polarizing effects, co-opted for sometimes propagandistic and sometimes humanitarian applications,” Tina Kukielski, executive director of ART21, writes in the exhibition essay. “The technology of the super mirror stainless steel we find in Freezing Rain is itself a purposeful gesture, for this is the same anti- corrosive material grafted onto telescopic vehicles set off in outer space meant to withstand the harshest and most unpredictable of climates.”
I happened to visit the gallery on an especially stormy day, my rain-soaked shoes squeaking on the pristine Marlborough floors. It’s not intuitive, just walking in the gallery, to immediately get what’s happening with the wind-swept mesh on the walls, and the interpretation of the paths of rain drops. It might have been more engaging to have some of Crown’s process on view, like the photographs. Without reading the accompanying essay, I likely would never have made a connection to the complications of technology or the intensity of weather. Yet in the gleaming “Freezing Rain,” there is some sensation of a sheet of rain caught in time, and how the storms of our memories are never quite those we experienced.
Paula Crown: Freezing Rain continues through October 8 at Marlborough Gallery (40 West 57th Street, Midtown West, Manhattan).