Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: “These Carnations Defy Language”

Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: These Carnations Defy Language began as a “seed”—a conversation between the artists in regards to Mute Objects of Expression, an anthology of the French poet Francis Ponge. Stemming from that conversation, this exhibition presents new individual and co-created works by Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden that highlight their use of textual sources and their own conceptual systems to inspire and structure their production.

Although manifested indirectly, their individual works are inspired by Ponge’s use of permutations, repetition, and various points of view. Grant’s paintings from her new series “Antigone 3000” continue her inquiry into literary texts as source material for her imagery. The works in “These Carnations Defy Language” explore and map the Greek myth of Antigone from the original basis of Sophocles’s text to a current exchange on her importance to future generations with Pasadena-based poet and artist Kate Durbin.

Roden’s work both conceptually and materially originates from an issue of the architecture and design magazine Domus from April 1964, a gift from his father, and published the month and year that Roden was born. Every inch of his works acknowledges the magazine as a collaborator; suggesting decisions such as colors, marks, materials, templates, and images. While many of the works were created in response to the magazine, Roden has also used the magazine as physical material within several of the works.

The artists’ collaborative works on paper are inspired particularly by Ponge’s poem “The Carnation,” from which the exhibition’s title is taken. The poet wrote, “Accept the challenge things offer to language. These carnations, for instance, defy language. I won’t rest till I have drawn together a few words that will compel anyone reading or hearing them to say: this has to do with something like a carnation.”

Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: “These Carnations Defy Language” is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art, and is supported by the PMCA Board of Directors, PMCA Ambassador Circle, and the Pasadena Art Alliance. This exhibition is accompanied by a brochure with an essay by Leslie Jones, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA.