Stay-at-home artists, introverted, obsessive, and a bit batty, are
stepping into the limelight, with work that harkens back to a handmade era and looks
forward to an increasingly digitized world. John Morris appears to be one of their number.
This self-taught artist, a 33-year-old resident of Queens, makes his debut with an
exhibition, at once vast and scaled down, of six years’ worth of drawings (his entire
oeuvre) in two rooms at D’Amelio Terras.
Laid out on tables, each accompanied by its own glassine envelope,
these small works are displayed like specimens of nature. Drawn and stamped with wax
crayon, graphite, ink, and colored pencil, each offers a microcosm of lines, dots,
ellipses, and circles, in delicately mutating color–pale yellows, milky whites, aqua
blues. At once organic and unearthly, Morris’s drawings seem like fragments that have
floated free from a parallel universe. Singly, they’re cause to linger, but their
greatest resonance lies in relation to one another, in series that recall the rhythms of
architecture or musical composition.
The artist cites Bach and Klee as influences, but his strange harmonies
also draw upon unconscious memories of the hand and body. His few titles are taken from
the names of start-up computer companies (Radiant Systems or Concentric Network, for example) or their stock-market ticker-tape numbers, and he sometimes
dedicates drawings to capitalists and entrepreneurs, revealing an interest in
self-propelled and proliferating structures. A cosmographer, his work tends toward those
remote regions where intimate cellular structure echoes the patterning of the universe.
Yet it can also seem as subtly imperceptible and personal as a fingerprint. Amid the noisy
commotion of the season’s opening in Chelsea, this quiet show commands attention in
the manner of a whisper.