Opening Reception: SHIFT
September, 2019
Meet artist Klea McKenna at the opening reception of SHIFT. This is McKenna’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and includes unique works made in the last year, an evolution of her ongoing series Generation.

McKenna utilizes the photogram process, a direct–contact technique whereby photographic paper physically meets its subject and records the mark of an interaction. She innovates within this technique to not only record light and shadow, but to translate touch and texture into visible imprints. In darkness, objects are transcribed to analog light–sensitive paper using a combination of the pressure of the artist’s hand, an etching press and a flashlight. McKenna’s “photographic rubbings” and “photographic reliefs” are embossed with the patterns of textiles and natural artifacts, transforming the paper into sculptural images — her own technique, which is driven by risk and experimentation.

The works in SHIFT continue McKenna’s ongoing series made from textiles and women’s clothing from the last 200 years. Fraying fibers and unraveling embroidery imprint their flaws onto photographic paper in crystalline detail. This work and the accompanying book Generation address the history and cultures from which these fabrics originate and the stories of colonialism, migration, cultural appropriation, and women’s labor and sexuality that are embedded in them. McKenna begins each piece by thoroughly researching her subject and studying the object before poetically reinterpreting its form. Textiles carry a rich legacy of touch — from the labor of their making to signs of gradual wear, alteration and reuse. McKenna seeks out textiles that have been deconstructed both by time and by the human hand. The act of embossing stretches the photographic paper, creating ripples and folds that intersect with the imagery of fabric. The resulting pieces revel in imperfection, emphasizing deterioration, decay and signs of this haptic interaction.

In these recent works McKenna loosens the boundaries, allowing for more personal expression. Photographic toners (liquid copper, sepia and selenium) create warm earth tones while hand drawn lines and streaks of light animate the subjects. In the newest examples, McKenna introduces plants, specific to the region from which the textiles originate, using the shadows and patterns of the leaves as a context for the textiles. Three of the pieces represent figurative imagery (inherent in the textile), including a female figure, animals and mythological figures. Working in darkness, McKenna builds these images up layer by layer, creating unique, large–scale photograms that contain the paradox of gestural abstraction and detailed evidence.

Photo: Faceless Immortals (1), Klea McKenna, 2019. Unique photographic relief. Photogram on gelatin silver fiber paper. Sepia and Selenium toned. Impression of a fragment of silk tapestry embroidered with gold&nspace;wrapped thread. China, Qing Dynasty, circa 1820–1860s. 42 x 80 inches. Copyright Klea McKenna, courtesy Euqinom Gallery, San Francisco.

Euqinom Gallery
1295 Alabama St, San Francisco [map]