Redwood Opening Reception

Pioneer Works is very pleased to announce Molly Lowe’s first institutional solo exhibition “Redwood.” The title refers to one of the most ancient tree species, which self-replicate; when one specimen dies, it clones itself through surrounding saplings born of its root system.

Revolving around notions of mortality and immortality, the exhibition physicalizes Lowe’s eponymous film, her first feature. Commissioned by Pioneer Works, Redwood (2016) is a time-travel family drama featuring a young woman, ostensibly Lowe, receiving a memory transplant from her grandmother who is in a vegetative state in a Mnemonegenix Center. Due to her grandmother’s dementia and the limits of technology, time frames and characters are fragmented and conflated in her memories.

Prompted in part by an old photograph of Lowe’s grandmother, a painter who recently passed away, Lowe distorts memories passed down to her from her grandmother and family members as almost photographic tableaux, affected by empathy, imagination, and the unreliable lens of memory. Hand-made masks that depict one woman aging from adolescence to obsolescence are worn by all characters throughout different decades; the masks collapse Lowe’s identity with those of the other female family members, making character dynamics and plot lines intentionally ambiguous.

Redwood is highly influenced by traditional Noh Theater, which also relies on masks to represent phantom beings, caught between life and death. Similarly, Lowe mythologizes her family members, manifest as hyper-stylized, almost otherworldly beings confronted with their own impending—if not delayed—mortality. With a nod to Japanese horror, the Soviet avant-garde, Cronenberg-style science fiction, and 90s classics such as Fried Green Tomatoes and A Princess Bride, Lowe intertwines these film genres to tap into visceral, pop-culture nostalgia as a vehicle to tell her own personal narratives. The exhibition itself surrounds the film installation with a surreal landscape, comprised of a 30-foot, suspended Redwood tree, a large, sand-dune breast, and a steep hill-bed. In addition, masks and gloves are displayed as a taxonomy of the film’s characters’ aging process.

This marks Pioneer Works’ first feature-length film commission, the culmination of a sustained working relationship with the artist, which began in 2014. When Lowe was in residence at Pioneer Works the next year, she filmed most of Redwood inside handmade sets on the third floor of the space. Additional scenes were filmed in Northern California.

Molly Lowe (b. 1983, Palo Alto, CA) combines sculpture, painting, performance, video, and installation to play with many themes relating to the awkwardness of living in a human body, and the way different psychological states can change the physical. She received her MFA from Columbia University and her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has been included in exhibitions and residencies, both internationally and in the US, including Recess Art, Skowhegan, Shandaken, The Sculpture Center, Suzanne Geiss, and Performa 13. She recently received the NYFA 2015 interdisciplinary artist fellowship award.