2111 Mission Street
Suite 401
San Francisco 94110

Going Home Again
Installation, Video, Photography, Collection by Elizabeth DiGiovanni
Painting, Video, Photocollage by Monica Johnson

October 8th - October 30th, 2004

Going Home Again presents work by two artists who explore memory, childhood, and inheritance.

In her work, Elizabeth DiGiovanni’s struggles for a sense of connection. She collects, like her mother and grandmother before her, as if working to preserve fragmentary traces of a sense of significance, and trying to inherit not only artifacts but also the very practice of collecting as if it were a tradition. She over-identifies with her mother, by presenting her mother’s work as her own, and recreating images of her mother with herself in her mother’s place. Something obscene about this identification speaks to both the difficulty of this relationship and the desperation with which DiGiovanni struggles to belong. She confuses the personal and the public, putting private remembrances on open display; and she relishes in kitsch nostalgia that haunts in its syrupy-sweetness. Her work is riddled with melancholy that manifests itself in the pathetic finitude of the particular artifacts she preserves from the past – Christmas cards, spools of thread, and a coconut-frosted cake cut in the shape of lion with licorice for legs.

Monica Johnson constructs scenes that tell stories, both within individual pieces and in the connections drawn between different works. In one series of paintings, she presents episodes from her childhood with the recurrent figure of a wrinkled, bloated, moon face (perhaps a stand-in for the artist herself), which appears both infantile and ancient. Like the impossibility of the fragmented photocollage of the neighborhood where she grew up, this repeated image gives the paintings a surreal quality, evoking the nagging uncertainty of what happened in the past and what it meant, along with the sense of estrangement suffered in childhood. The paintings are connected by pencil drawings on the walls which include diary entries – some visible, some erased – that embellish the scenes as associations; while other paintings include text within them like frames from a graphic novel. Johnson returns repeatedly to maps in the construction and presentation of her work, as if she is trying to designate landmarks along the path of her up-bringing and to give coherence to what seems so familiar and yet menacingly unclear.

- Clark Buckner



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