A note from the curator.
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the Dormouse says to Alice, “They were learning to draw…and they drew all manner of things—everything that begins with an M—such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness — you know you say things are “much of a muchness” — did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?”
“Muchness” is a Shakespearian-sounding word that is predominantly used in contemporary English within the phrasing: ‘much of a muchness.’ In composing this exhibition, I selected three artists whose work plays uniquely off of the internal paradox of the phrase. To utter “much of muchness,” suggests that something is ‘very similar’ or ‘just about the same.’ But “muchness” is also something that is of great physical magnitude.
In the work of Natasha Bowdoin, Harold Mendez, and Rodrigo Valenzuela I discovered a conceptual relation-ship to the ordinary. Whether employing vernacular materials or commonplace processes such as collage, each of these artists reworks the mundane into realms of exceptional abundance; a muchness in labor, material, and metaphor. And here, in the work of these artists, the “muchness” is also an ethical position. It represents a responsibility to cultivate poetic meaning from “mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory,” all things that are familiar. A drawing of muchness can only be the unordinary accumulation of the ordinary.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Excerpt from Chapter VII “A Mad Tea-Party”
`No, please go on!’ Alice said very humbly; `I won’t interrupt again. I dare say there may be one.’
`One, indeed!’ said the Dormouse indignantly. However, he consented to go on. `And so these three little sisters–they were learning to draw, you know–‘
`What did they draw?’ said Alice, quite forgetting her promise.
`Treacle,’ said the Dormouse, without considering at all this time.
`I want a clean cup,’ interrupted the Hatter: `let’s all move one place on.
‘He moved on as he spoke, and the Dormouse followed him: the March Hare moved into the Dormouse’s place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate.
Alice did not wish to offend the Dormouse again, so she began very cautiously: `But I don’t understand. Where did they draw the treacle from?’
`You can draw water out of a water-well,’ said the Hatter; `so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well–eh, stupid?’
`But they were in the well,’ Alice said to the Dormouse, not choosing to notice this last remark.
`Of course they were’, said the Dormouse; `–well in.
‘This answer so confused poor Alice, that she let the Dormouse go on for some time without interrupting it.
`They were learning to draw,’ the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; `and they drew all manner of things–everything that begins with an M–‘
`Why with an M?’ said Alice.
`Why not?’ said the March Hare.
Alice was silent.
The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: `–that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness– you know you say things are “much of a muchness”–did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?’
`Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, `I don’t think–‘
`Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter.
This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.