Entrancing, Enchanting and Immersive: Rachel Howard Solo Exhibition Opens in Chelsea

Rachel Howard is a tour de force, as evidenced by her new exhibition at Blain|Southern New York.

"Sisters & Daughters." (Courtesy the Artist and Blain|Southern. Photo by Adam Reich.)

British artist Rachel Howard recently launched her solo exhibition, open from Sept. 6-Oct. 26 at Blain|Southern New York, a prominent international gallery on West 25th Street. The theme of the exhibition is “L’Appel du Vide,” which translates to “call of the void” and refers to the momentary urge to jump from a great height. The exhibition features an array of works that demonstrate the dynamic nature of Howard’s skills and capabilities, from sculptures to paintings to ink drawings. I spoke to Emily Jackson, Rachel Howard’s liaison at the gallery, about the exhibition and the artist. 

The exhibition space is divided into three main sections. Upon entering, you are confronted with a large mixed-media piece that consists primarily of hazel sticks. This work, titled “Sisters & Daughters” intrigued me as its large proportions seemed to fit seamlessly into the space — it appeared as though the space was created for the work. The room in which the work is found also contains ink on paper pieces that depict the female form. 

“‘Everyone should have a stick,’ says the artist,” Jackson explains. “The hazel sticks in ‘Sisters and Daughters’ are presented together as a grouping, representing female empowerment. All women are daughters, but not everyone is a sister, but there is such a thing as a sisterhood which one can choose to be a part of — presented here together they are united in their front.” 

This is but one of many pieces with a fascinating backstory. I found the ink-on-paper drawings particularly compelling — their haunting and delicate qualities merged seamlessly. 

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The works are individually powerful, so before admiring the paintings separately, allow yourself to experience the works as a holistic unit. Immerse yourself in the space and then fixate your attention on the painting that draws you in the most. Slowly begin to walk closer. Let your eyes peruse the canvas as you draw near; you will notice patterns, brushstrokes and depth that were not apparent before. Consequently, a flurry of meaning will reveal itself to you. The works themselves are the call of the void, drawing you in from a distance away. I found the aforementioned technique particularly impactful with her large oil and acrylic works to the right of the gallery’s entrance. These paintings are powerful and imposing and demand extra attention.

The exhibition is modestly sized, yet I found myself in the gallery for more than an hour. It was a case of becoming genuinely lost in the space. 

When asked about what she believes makes Howard such a tour de force in contemporary art, Jackson replied: “The intense physicality of the artist’s process mirrors the profound ideas she explores in her works — the tensions between control and chaos, order and entropy. To use her medium to express these ideas in such an affecting way I think puts her amongst the most interesting artists working in contemporary art today.” 

Email Neil Dittrich at [email protected]

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