Bright Light/Darkest Shadow (MOCA)





Diana Shpungin
Bright Light/Darkest Shadow
Curated by Ginger Shulick-Porcella
MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson
January 11 – May 3, 2020

Diana Shpungin’s body of work re-imagines standard notions of drawing practice through painstakingly made hand-drawn animation. For her solo exhibition Bright Light / Darkest Shadow the artist displays nearly ten years of hand-drawn animation works consisting of literally thousands of original source drawings shown in three distinct gallery spaces of the museum.

The works on exhibition consider numerous dichotomies, –both literally and figuratively, between light/darkness, hope/despair, failure/triumph, memory/forgetfulness, nature/humanity, breakage/repair, loss/longing, public/private and the tangible/metaphysical as components reliant on one another, and in an optimistic quest for empathy across identity lines in the face of uncertainty in our current precarious times. Shpungin often refers to some of her animation works as purposely failed animations, never successfully animating the inanimate subject born from memory or the metaphorically static world of photography. The work involves an incredibly laborious process of on site filming, sound recording, photography, drawing and then editing hundreds of graphite pencil source drawings.

On view in total are seventeen unique hand-drawn animation works accompanied by a selection of source drawings. In the largest gallery space is a selection of works relating to the artists fascination with the seashore, Disappearing Act, Figure And Ground and Reoccurring Tide. As well as nine works born from Shpungin’s previous project, the monumental Drawing Of A House (Triptych) which involved hand coating an entire abandoned rectory in graphite pencil and projecting animations in selected windows of the home, including; The Vanishing Point, A Million To One (For Blue Velvet) and shown as a two-video compilation A Smudge May Well Be An Apparition with A Draft (For Felix) and exhibited as a related dual-channel work; The Dust In The Light (The Pessimist) and The Light In The Dark (The Optimist) and shown as a three-video compilation; A Severed Limb Persuaded To Return, Chronicle Of A Now Empty Space and Knowing How To Break Glass Quietly (The Ascetic).

In a small enclosed room three videos consisting of works relating to Shpungin’s deceased father. Until It No Longer is based on a photographic death portrait taken by the artist, this would be the last image taken of her father. Shpungin decided to draw the portrait over and over randomly over several years until she became somewhat anesthetized to the image. His View depicts the view from Shpungins’ fathers’ burial site. A figure enters and exits the frame in a gesture of both honor and resentment. The animation work Endless Ocean is based on a family photograph chosen by the artist as an homage to Roland Barthes notion of his mother’s essence in the text Camera Lucida. Here we see the artists’ father at the beach, confidently wearing a Speedo and tightly grasping onto a seagulls leg in a playful yet unconsciously sadistic manner.

And lastly, Shpungin has also created two entirely new works for the exhibition, which are shown as a related dual-channel projection installation and projected on large sheets of drawing paper floating in a dark space. These new undertakings are at once the most elaborate and experimental works Shpungin has made to date. To Get Out Of The Way ambiguously illustrates the bond between the human/natural world and is a contemplation of the art historical figure in the landscape, but with a wry present-day gaze. Figures in landscapes, proceed and recede in vast diverse settings meditating on the idea of control and lack there of in our natural surroundings in the wake of global environmental catastrophes. The projection depicts vast hybrid desert, tropical, forest, ocean and other landscapes with silhouettes of figures, literally and figuratively, blacking out and reclaiming the scenery as a cyclical metaphor of human intervention, both positively and negatively, of what the future could be. On the adjacent side of the elongated room, To Extinguish The Sun depicts an abstracted celestial sky scape that fluctuates through numerous environmental changes. The many drawings were exposed to light, water, fire, puncturing and generalized destruction creating a flickering jump shot effect. The failed ending occurs when a shadow puppet hand enters and pinches the sun in a metaphorical yet futile attempt to obliterate the universe.

A full color had-cover catalog will accompany the exhibition with poignant essays by Lisa D. Freiman and Ginger Shulick-Porcella.

Exhibition Checklist:

Hand-Drawn Video Animations:

  1.  Until It No Longer, 2007/2011
  2.  His View, 2011
  3. Endless Ocean, 2011
  4. Figure and Ground, 2012
  5. Disappearing Act, 2012
  6. Reoccurring Tide, 2016
  7. A Severed Limb Persuaded To Return, 2015
  8. Chronicle Of A Now Empty Space, 2015
  9. Knowing How To Break Glass Quietly (The Ascetic), 2015
  10. A Draft (For Felix), 2015
  11. A Smudge May Well Be An Apparition, 2015
  12. The Dust In The Light (The Pessimist), 2015
  13. The Light In The Dark (The Optimist), 2015
  14. The Vanishing Point, 2015
  15.  A Million To One (For Blue Velvet), 2015
  16. To Get Out Of The Way, 2020
  17.  To Extinguish The Sun, 2020

Graphite Pencil Drawings:

  1. Until It No Longer, 2007/2011number AP from a suite of 48 drawings
  2. His View, 2011, number AP from a suite of 48 drawings
  3. Endless Ocean, 2011, number 24 from a suite of 30 drawings
  4. Figure and Ground, 2012, number 4 from a suite of 45 drawings
  5. Disappearing Act, 2012, number 20 from a suite of 50 drawings
  6. Reoccurring Tide, 2016, number 26 from a suite of 49 drawings
  7. A Severed Limb Persuaded To Return, 2015, number 82 from a suite of 123 drawings
  8. Chronicle Of A Now Empty Space, 2015, number 20 from a suite of 55 drawings
  9. Knowing How To Break Glass Quietly (The Ascetic), 2015, number 32 from a suite of 32 drawings
  10. A Draft (For Felix), 2015, number 34 from a suite of 44 drawings
  11. A Smudge May Well Be An Apparition, 2015, number 4 from a suite of 50 drawings
  12. The Dust In The Light (The Pessimist), 2015, number 6 from a suite of 48 drawings
  13. The Light In The Dark (The Optimist), 2015, number 4 from a suite of 32 drawings
  14. The Vanishing Point, 2015, number 14 from a suite of 60 drawing
  15. A Million To One (For Blue Velvet), 2015, number 8 from a suite of 42 drawing
  16. To Get Out Of The Way, 2020, number 13 from a suite of 504 drawing
  17. To Extinguish The Sun, 2020, number AP from a suite of 66 drawings