Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present Kenturah Davis, Mary Kelly and Agnes Martin in Lines of Thought, an exhibition exploring the poetics and politics of language. Important unseen work by Kelly and new text drawings and weavings by Davis enter into conversation with the hand-drawn lines and gridded compositions of Martin’s works on paper.
Lines of Thought is the first UK presentation of work by young LA-based artist, Kenturah Davis. Four works (2020) from her series, Limen, pair portraiture with weaving, expressing how individuals are inseparable from the ideas and language that shape identity. Each portrait takes shape through a meticulous process of rubbing pencil across embossed paper inscribed with handwritten text. As the figure emerges, areas of script become legible, while others remain nearly invisible. Juxtaposed is a textile woven from related handwritten script on paper, transformed into thread using the Japanese technique shifu. Drawing on the etymological link between text and textiles, the fibres hint at their encoded information only through tiny flecks of ink. Davis draws on writings from Africa and its diaspora, including those by scholars Fred Moten and Jedidah Isler, touching on subjects from shadows, to black holes, time travel, proverbs and philosophy. Through concealment and illumination, Davis complicates binary categories of black and white, light and dark, East and West.
Exhibited for the first time will be Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document: Documentation VI (Silver Autone Prints) (1983), a unique installation made of 15 parts based on the artist’s artwork of the same name. It was while working on the book version for Post-Partum Document that Kelly devised this rare photographic technique. In Documentation VI, Kelly explores the linguistic formation and development of gender identity, referencing the Rosetta Stone to examine the importance of repetition to the development of language and meaning. Also on view is Kelly’s London, 1974 (2017) in which the artist uses her unique lint medium to integrate personal memories of motherhood and communal living as experienced by feminists in the 1970s. Kelly transposes this private, handwritten correspondence into gridded panels, the materiality of the process reflecting that of Davis’ weavings, and together forming a dialogue on our fragile comprehension of formative events and social structures.
Grid-like arrangements echo throughout the exhibition. This is crystallised in Agnes Martin’s drawing The Peach (1964). Delicate graphite lines appear to blaze an unswerving path into the infinite, only to reach an abrupt stop at the outer limits of the grid. Simultaneously constricting and liberating, the grid functions as a tool to approach ambiguous concepts of identity, memory and emotion. The drawings by Martin will be accompanied by works from her only major printing project, On a clear day (1973), inviting the viewer to meditate upon the mutability of structure and the potential of seriality to generate meaning. This body of work marks a critical point in Martin’s career, signalling a return to artmaking after a self-imposed hiatus. By the time of her pencil, ink and watercolour drawing, Untitled (1995), Martin’s grids have been simplified into straight horizontal (sometimes vertical) lines, not unlike those of a school workbook. As Nancy Princenthal has suggested, Martin’s hand drawn lines are directly ‘tied to handwriting and to verbal language … not so much represent[ing] conditions in the material world … as states of mind, or more precisely, lines of thought’.
 Nancy Princenthal, Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art, Thames and Hudson (2015)