Broken Year by Valeska Soares at Alexander Gray Associates

Alexander Gray Associates is pleased to announce Broken Year, Valeska Soares’s third one-person presentation with the Gallery. From January 13 to February 26, 2022.

Conceived as a broken calendar that marks the artist’s experience of the passage of time, Broken Year is Soares’s response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The work takes the shape of a gallery-wide installation organized as a physical calendar: Stretched linen-canvas panels are grouped in the familiar grid of a traditional calendar. For each panel, Soares selects pages from books with particularly meaningful or evocative phrases, which are applied to the canvas to mark the calendar days. The work is bookended by two significant dates: March 1, 2020, when she began self-isolating, and March 29, 2021, when she received her second dose of the vaccine.

Soares is renowned for her deft deployment of minimalist and conceptualist strategies that lend poetics to memory, emotion, and loss. Here the restrained formality of the grid, amplified by quantity and repetition, transmits the ways in which the pandemic transformed our relationship to time. Simultaneously, its scale and materiality evoke a sense of mourning for all the time and lives that have been lost. Many of Soares’s series themselves evolve over time: The artist will establish a thread and return to it later, framing it through different contexts and emotions. Broken Year is one such evolution, a reconsideration of a project begun in 2014 and now utterly transformed by the pandemic. 

Installed near the Gallery’s entrance, Soares’s 2014 work Ouroboros is the artist’s counterpoint to the stretches of time and meaning mapped in Broken Year. The installation’s title refers to an allegorical serpent swallowing its own tail, a symbol of infinity in which time is circular and suspended. Soares replaces the serpent with a golden pocket watch (in Portuguese, the word for gold is ouro) that is suspended from the ceiling by a delicate chain. The watch executes an almost imperceptible rotation in space, turning at the speed of one revolution per hour. Deprived of its hour hand, which Soares removed, the clock loses its function of offering a reference to a specific moment in the day, attesting instead to the inexorable passing of continuous time.

While the glacial pace of Ouroboros marks the passage of time on an epochal scale, gesturing to what geologists call “deep time,” Broken Year reflects discrete personal, daily moments. Between them, the two works evoke a collective human experience which, while demarcated in specific dates, transcends a unique period to touch on our shared experiences of time, memory, and loss.