Elizabeth Sims: Prima Materia

March 1–April 1, 2017
Minnesota Street Project
Gallery 201
1275 Minnesota Street, SF, CA

OPENING RECEPTION Thursday, March 9 | 6–8PM
GALLERY HOURS Wednesday–Saturday | 12–6PM

ARTIST TALK Saturday, April 1 | 1–2PM
Focusing on her recent work, Sims will discuss her practice of visiting natural hot springs across the American West, and her experience of these uncanny sites as catalysts for radical exchange in the tradition of the temporary autonomous zone

Mixed Use is pleased to present Prima Materia, a solo exhibition of recent work by Oakland-based artist Elizabeth Sims. The exhibition will be on view in Gallery 201 at Minnesota Street Project beginning Wednesday, March 1 with a public opening reception on Thursday, March 9 from 6–8PM.

The exhibition’s title refers to the alchemical philosophy of first matter, the primitive formless base that constitutes the starting point for all things. There are hundreds of definitions for prima materia, including “iron, gold, salt, sulphur, blood, poison, clouds, dew, sea, mother, moon, dragon, Venus, microcosm, chaos, darkness.” Here, the artist translates the concept into considerations of power, humility and transcendence that evolved out of the challenges she encountered during years of activism in the Bay Area.

The framed works on view, from The Wandering Ecstatic series, are named after radical figures from history and fiction who have retreated––and sometimes disappeared––into the wilderness. The drawings reference various geological phenomena that Sims encountered during trips through the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Intricately rendered in graphite, the elusive forms suggest the permeability of body and environment, refuting the contemporary logic of the separate self. Their energetic forces suggest ecstatic, visionary, even hallucinatory moments of oneness–––an encounter that expresses a return to “bare life” as a subversion of compromised social roles.

The exhibition also includes new work in which Sims explores her proposed function of natural hot springs as “temporary autonomous zones” in which social norms are suspended, catalyzing intimacy and communion. Anarchist poet Hakim Bey defined the T.A.Z. as a “socio-political tactic in the form of contingent spaces that resist authoritarian control.” After years of seeking out natural hot springs in the American West, Sims has identified these spaces as subversive microcosms akin to those that Bey describes.

“Hot springs form uncanny littoral margins, rising from the unlikely terrain of mountains, deserts, and glacial valleys. They comprise a delicate membrane between the underworld of geologic forces and our own atmosphere. To enter these pools is to subvert the traditional phenomenology of the human form, to trade standing for submersion, surveillance for a ground-eye view,” Sims says. “I have sought to participate in the temporary autonomous zones these places provide, embracing self-effacement while forging moments of solidarity within an otherwise atomized society.”

Using these geothermic sites as sources, Sims’ new series comprises highly articulated drawings of earth, water and stone that dissolve within the abstraction of uncontrolled media like watercolor and ink. These forms mutate beyond the constraints of identity, suggesting the elusive power of ephemerality, volatility, and convergence.

Prima Materia will also feature photographs and objects that document the artist’s practice of visiting natural hot springs.

Elizabeth Sims is an activist and fifth-generation Californian living and working in Northern California. She received her MFA from Claremont Graduate University and BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Recent exhibitions and residencies include Water Discipline, Interface Gallery, Oakland, CA (2016); Radical Landscapes, di Rosa, Sonoma, CA (2016); The Disquiet: Bay Area Currents 2014, ProArts Gallery, Oakland, CA (2014); Hello, How Are You? Invisible Venue and Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA (2012); The Wassaic Project, New York (2012).