Sow & Tailor is proud to present The Potency of Certain Gestures, a solo exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Molly Bounds on view through July 1, 2023. Molly Bounds’s work often illustrates the likeness of indecision through psychological portraiture, surfacing as contemplative stills and their fragments of desire – profoundly meeting or surpassing all known limits. In Bounds’s latest work, figures are newly engaged in play. Inspired by the practice and performance of the Los Angeles clown community, performers and their peers have provided no direction but further exploration toward living a life less clouded with hesitation, freeing the mind from the purgatory of option paralysis, and learning to rely again on impulse and intuition.

Her paintings present us with figures in suspended action and heightened presence, wholly committed to the task at hand, no matter how fruitless. The artist depicts moments that are intimate, mundane, and humanizing. In the painting Finale a performer stands in front of stage curtains; all that is visible is their hands, which delicately and triumphantly lift a hat. The simple gesture of removing one’s hat becomes a drawn out and suspenseful performance. Bounds shares with us an intriguing aspect of clowning practice - an exaggerated and amplified state of experiencing the world. A long-awaited climax assigns great power to something miniscule. As performers, clowns trigger a whole range of emotions in their spectators: fear, joy, and empathy through their return to a primal state of being defined by fight or flight, vulnerability, and inevitably failure.

In 2022, Bounds participated in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s Arts & Industry residency, where she was thrown into the world of metalworking. A true baptism by fire, the residency pushed the printmaker into a practice she describes as an “endurance test of the body.” Bounds also echoed the ethos of the Center and the late arts philanthropist Ruth Kohler (1941-2020), who was devoted to breaking down the hierarchies of fine art and championing self-taught artists. Like Kohler, Bounds’s practice highlights people at the margins; in their mythology, clowns have historically been presented as part of the lower rungs of society, with their name even used as an amusing insult. From this period in Bounds’s trajectory emerged several small-scale brass sculptures depicting clown paraphernalia, also known as “failure trophies” or “arbitrary compasses.” These talismans include a brass nose with a thin red string attached. Objects like this grant the performer permission to search, step into themselves further, embrace flaws, habituate risk, and fail gloriously.

The Potency of Certain Gestures brings us into the unapologetic world of a community at the fringes, where freedom is not imagined, rather it is lived.  —Tina Barouti & Molly Bounds