An essay by Kenn Bass, NYC 2006
Ann Resnick is alive and well, and she wants to make sure we all stay that way too. Her drawings, prints and installations invoke and draw inspiration from the principles of how-to manuals, rescue and recovery handbooks, genetics, and the remembrance of things past. While the authoritarian wing of the Republican party makes grandiose claims about protecting us from terrorist attacks, Resnick reminds us that the true dangers often lurk in within a more personal domain. Instead of advising that we all go shopping, she recognizes that losing ourselves in the frenzy of materialistic culture is often the first step on the road to oblivion. Her work accepts the real possibility of loss while simultaneously offering tips for preventive maintanence.
Survival, 1991-1994, Woodcut Prints
Survival is a good case in point. These massive prints, each measuring 8′ by 4′, are part of a series comprising a kind of storyboard that simultaneously teaches a life-saving lesson and reflects the threat of becoming overwhelmed in a technologically accelerated culture. In response, Resnick’s decision to use woodcutting as her medium reveals an passion for processes which are both tactile and complex, requiring a high degree of skill and patience. She has spoken of seeing half-tones as the DNA of reproductive media, and employs what is typically a mechanical method of reproduction, but in this case, wrought by hand and developed by the centuries-old process of woodcutting and hand-printing. Or as she puts it, “it felt like an additional comment on the rewards of hard work, of a sustained effort–of doing anything by hand–that there is some inherent value in that”. In an art world awash with electronic flotsam and jetsam, Resnick demonstrates that physical endurance and agility are often the only true way to go the distance.
Technology of course, is a relative term, depending upon the tools in question. Resnick’s installation, Manual For A New Millinneum reflects her view that as we continue to move towards an increasingly virtual reality, there are basic skills that will still matter when the grid goes down, just as it did during the blackout of August 14, 2003, when a good chunk of the US and Ontario was brought to a complete standstill.
How To Be Handy, 2002-2003, Woodburned and Screenprinted Plaques
Resnick’s installation is comprised of a series of plaques focusing on tasks being performed by hand, and offering tips for applying elementary tools and techniques. Remaining true to her subject, the artist employs similar processes, in this case woodburning and screenprinting, allowing her handwork and conceptual emphasis to rise to the surface. It’s a generous offering, but it also issues a benevolent call to action, reminding us that these humble actions should not be reduced to mere footnotes in the well of human history. Her work raises the possibility that even in a time dominated by digital verisimilitude, when the deluge comes you’ll still need to know how to drive a nail, change a tire, or build a boat. Resnick is exactly the kind of person you want to have around in a state of emergency; one who sizes up the situation and proceeds in a cool, collected manner.
Resnick’s comparison of half-tones to DNA also harkens back to an earlier installation, Jeannepool, which employs her own drawn and woodcut marks, referenced over and over again through enlargements and reductions, to render a set of composite portraits from features of her siblings. After all, the genetic code is itself a system for leaving a series of similar marks. Resnick’s process and subject matter combine and recombine to form a mobius strip of reproductive issues. Jeannepool (named for the artist’s mother), offers an assessment of genetic viability and the odds of reaching adulthood.
One recent series of extraordinarily beautiful works on paper, Burnt Offerings, was made to mark the passing of close friends and family members. Using the motif of commemorative floral arrangements, appropriately in silhouette, the artist overlays these images with hand written excerpts from letters and obituaries of those individuals. Resnick makes a passing allusion to the language of flowers, or floriography as the Victorians called it; a means by which they passed coded messages among themselves. I think the artist intends these works to be read in a similar vein, not in any mystical sense, but as a reminder that in order to comprehend our present condition, we should not discount the lessons of history. This is particularly evident in those pieces in which the image appears bleached out, as though overwhelmed by light. While the urge to alleviate these anxieties offers motivation for Resnick’s work, she also finds illumination in the inevitable reality of absence.