Reviews & Essays
The Ledger Series is a feast for eyes and mind
Walking into Regina Granne’s show at the Genovese/Sullivan Gallery is like stepping onto the second deck of Noah’s ark: winter vegetables and summer vegetables, spring fruit and autumn fruit, living flowers and dried flowers, all appear in pairs on 12-inch square panels of wood. Earlier and later, front and back, left side and right side: Granne’s conceit is to regard each work as a kind of ledger, as if two perspectives on a beet or a white eggplant or a petunia could be submitted to an accountant’s exactitude. The result is a cornucopia of richly sensual, unexpectedly evocative still lifes. They ripen, they rotten, they continue unfolding into their deaths,their harvests, as they continued to unfold in life.

It’s a remarkable achievement that in a show of 72 works, all of the same dimensions and compositional format, Granne continually undermines our expectations – at times to startling dramatic effect. For the most part, the produce and flowers seem uniformly fresh; one moves among the bulbous apples andcorpulent pears as if at a feast or in a market. Then we come upon her white eggplant, in the center of which is a dark spot of decay. The result is unexpected and disturbing – not least because of its appropriateness as a reminder of the integral place of decomposition in anything alive. Similarly, the first time we come upon an image of driedflowers in all the precision of their withering, the feeling is nearly one of betrayal.

All 72 works in the show read from left to right, as words in our language read from left to right. Left generally implies “before” and right “after,” but Granne subverts this expectationas well. She shows us the rotten spot on the eggplant in the left half of the frame, paints the underside of a squash before its top, reveals small tentacles sprouting from a yam before displaying its unblemished other side. The backgrounds of the two halves always vary while the physical object remains the same, as if to point out that every glance changes because looking itself happens in time.

Not only does shevary the sequence we expect time to follow, but she also varies the arrangement of each paired set; typically, the two views complete a circle, but not always. A pepper faces away from itself, as it were; on the left, its stem points one way, while on the right it points in the opposite direction. On the other hand, a turnip does not complete a 180-degree turn between its left and right images, while a radish is repositioned almost 270 degrees from left to right.

And this is just one of the ways Granne plays with the notion of mirroring. On the one hand, the two views of an apple or gourd or garlic constitute the whole. On the other hand, the two halves are entirely distinct. It’s theviewer who imposes the idea of a wholeness, while the artist has devoted her attention to something else: the complement that is not predicted by its match. What complements ever are?

It is hard to imagine the Ledger Series appearing to greater advantage than in the thoughtful, meticulous presentation at the Genovese/Sullivan Gallery. From a distance, one might worry that the sheer number of painting, all hung at the same level, might sabotage the experience of viewing them. Yet gallery directors Camelia Genovese and David Sullivan have figured out exactly how far apart to place the paintings; it’s possible to view each frame without being distracted by the next. The sensitivity of the curators complements the already extraordinary achievement of Granne’s work.

- Christopher Mills