I’ll Tumble For Ya: Neverending Cycles
There’s a reason people with money have for centuries paid others to wash their clothes. Laundry is a never-ending task, and even the invention of washing machines and dryers has not relieved us of the need to haul baskets, sort and fold in a relentless routine. Rather than make note and marvel that not one but two exhibitions built around laundry have been presented in Cleveland in a six month span, maybe we should wonder why that took so long. Laundry is a universal obligation, and anyone can relate.
Never ending Cycles: A Laundromat Soap Opera opened the third Friday in January at E11even2 Gallery at 78th Street Studios—eleven days after the close of Degas and the Laundress, at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Curated by Celeste Stauber, Never Ending Cycles gathers often humorous works of approximately thirty artists. It’s not a risky assumption in 21st century Cleveland to suggest that all of them probably do their own laundry. That’s a key distinction in the perspectives of the two shows: Neverending Cycles presents the day-to-day task familiar-to-all, with all the solidarity, sympathy and mutual understanding that can imply, vs. the idea of subjugated women, and all that can imply. While The Museum’s exhibition of 19th century washer women explored under-paid, often sexualized laborers in the service of higher classes, Never Ending Cycles rides on mutual understanding and is by turns whimsical, meditative, and funny.
The coincidence of two shows about laundry is exactly that. Stauber says she first thought of curating a show about laundry in July, and didn’t know about the Degas show until it was open in the Fall. “My inspiration was seeing the bad artwork in my buildings laundry room,” she said. “I wanted to swap out the artwork, and then it just snowballed from there. I really wanted to do a pop-up show in an actual laundromat, but the logistics and safety of the artwork had me worried.” Her answer was to bring the laundromat to the art gallery.
She and collaborator Taylor Clapp outlined a bank of washing machines on the wall, and outfitted them with rotating panels to mimic the washer-dryer action. Several of the artists—George Kocar, for example—painted works on round panels to fill the spinning windows of the front-loaders. In one of Kocar’s works (Wash them Bones) a jumble of skeletons tumbled in the soapy water. In another (Laundrymat Day Dream: Deep End Hell Jar), a figure in a diving mask swims with fishes and socks. Kocar, in his usual style, mixes a bit of existentialism with the humor and bright colors.
Grace Summanen’s painting practice for years has involved copious amounts of paint over collaged, scavenged material. Her piece I Have Covered Up A Lot From My Past uses scraps of fabric, saturated with yellow, green, and pastel blue and pink, layered in swatches, with a few wrinkles fixed in place by all that paint. None of the elements is hard edged or perfectly straight, but its juxtaposition of shapes and composition draw on geometric abstraction. While the title alludes to buried secrets beneath the layers, the context of the exhibition calls to mind an overhead view of a stack of folded clothes–a point of view, as if the viewer has been at work.
Gwen Waight’s assemblage of cleaning tools, Scrub, is packed tightly with sponges and scouring pads, including one of those stainless steel jobs for aggressive removal of grime from pots, pans, and hard surfaces. There’s a bucket crammed with rubber gloves and a twisted bottle, presumably wrung dry of its detergent. The sheer number of scrubbies, stacked like sandwiches, give off obsessive vibes, while a mannequin’s hand gracefully cradling a towel feels a bit creepy.
Grace McConnell’s series of three small figurative paintings, Undressing, Dissociate, and Statis, captured the meditative and intimate setting of a woman in her bedroom undressing, eventually laying on the bed, surrounded by colorful clothes. This series has the most in common with with the works in Degas and the Laundress, at CMA, not least because it is a figurative portrait of a person, and not least because she is getting undressed. But in this case, presumably she is in her own room, surrounded by her own clothes and her own laundry task: It’s a sensual scene, but labor and exploitation are not a part of it.
Among the show’s greatest delights was Wendy Partridge’s edition of letterpress and pressure-printed “Wanted” posters. “FUGITIVE,” They proclaim. “if seen text 216-381-SOCK.” The portrait of the wanted fugitive is a sock, pressure printed in soft and dreamy blues and greens. Who in the world does not understand the dynamic of the single missing sock? The prints are wittily hung from clothespins on a line
Neverending Cycles is a joyful show, and with so many artists there is plenty to discover. It’s on view through February 16, with additional hours as noted below.
Neverending Cycles: A Laundromat Soap Opera
January 19 – February 16, 2024
78th Street Studios
1305 West 80th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44102
1 – 4 pm Saturday, January 27
During Cleveland Bazaar Valentine 10 am -4 pm February 3
1 – 4 pm Sunday, February 11
Third Friday closing reception 5 – 9 pm Friday, February 16
Artist MOO will host a session, Drawing Queer People from Life, 6 – 9 pm Wednesday February 7. $10.