Forage Modern Workshop

Color in Motu, An Installation by Isa Gagarin

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Please join us at Forage Modern Workshop for the closing reception, Thursday, June 27, 6-8PM.

From the artist:

Notes on Color in Motu

At the center of artist and educator Joseph Albers’ teachings on color and perception is the idea that color is relative. In his book Interaction of Color ( 1963), he asks the reader to imagine dipping one hand in a bowl of cold water and the other hand in a bowl of hot water. There is a third bowl, filled with room-temperature water. When the “cold” hand dips into the third bowl, it feels quite warm in contrast. The “hot” hand perceives the neutral water as cold. This idea of relativity is explored in the book throughout Albers’ imaginative exercises in color and perception.

Being a visual artist, I have cultivated the practice of observing color in my environment. I am perceptive to the changing conditions of light and space that contribute to color’s relativity. One of the experiences I have been drawn to is the flickering quality of dappled light underneath trees. On August 21, 2017, I observed the total solar eclipse in Laurens, South Carolina. I was thrilled to witness the phenomena in which dappled light underneath trees appeared to be composed entirely of illuminated crescents. My friend’s daughter was born that same day.


The solar eclipse is a coincidence: the moon is just the right size and distance from the earth that when its orbit aligns with the sun, the moon appears to slip perfectly over the sun like the lid of a jar. On September 30, 2013, on what happened to be my birthday, I interviewed solar physicist Shadia Habbal about her work as a solar eclipse chaser. One of the questions I asked her was about the idea of coincidences within astronomy. She laughed and shrugged. “There are still so many unexplainable things about our universe. I think of a friend, and she calls me on the phone at that instant- I have no way to explain that.” As we parted ways at the end of our interview, she mentioned that it was her birthday.
It is because of experiences like this that my work is deeply personal. There is an indirect and circuitous connection between my experiences and a crescent shape cut out of fabric, painted blue and collaged on to the wall. Color in Motu is an expression of color in movement, installed on site at Forage Modern Workshop and responding to elements of light and scale in the gallery space. The flickering quality of dappled light is a minor creative inspiration, but where the process of making the work leads me is completely unknown. Color in Motu might embody unexpected ideas and experiences that I have absorbed and circulated. Within my work, the indeterminate connections between autobiography and abstraction are the same as Albers’ colors: relative.

About the artist:

Isa Gagarin is an interdisciplinary artist based in Minneapolis. Working in an expanded painting practice, Gagarin uses site-specific installation to convey perceptive responses to space, with an emphasis on color relationships. The impermanent and durational qualities of natural phenomena such as solar eclipses, tides, and rainbows prompt Gagarin to draw connections between her work and personal experiences of environments in Hawai’i and Guam. Gagarin received her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University (2018) and a BFA in Painting from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (2008).

And we are honored to have had poet Miriam Karraker compose two poems — “both ode and elegy” — in concert with the installation. Artist books are available; edition of 60.

Miriam Karraker writes and performs. She is currently based in Minneapolis and is working on a novel and other objects. She is interested in the intersections of work and play, legibilities and illegibilities. She teaches generative drawing, writing, and movement workshops as an independent educator/facilitator.