Slide Slide Essay At its root, a fragment is time and narrative: from the Latin frangere, to break, it intimates a sequence of events—something was whole, and then it was broken. We are left with Rodin’s “here,” marked both by an impression of absence and an unexpected excess—everything remaining (debris, beauty), with nowhere to go.

The fragment has been a potent spur to creativity for centuries. To Rodin could be added many others, including the critic Walter Benjamin, who conceived a history written from fragments of texts and memory, brought together in revolutionary constellations; Emily Dickinson, who left 100 or so scraps of paper on which she jotted bits of poetry, prose, or words impossible to distinguish as one or the other (“and / ignoble / trifles”); John Cage, who filled the ‘leftover’ spaces of his collected writings with gnomic anecdotes modeled on Zen koans; and Jasper Johns, whose casts of body parts are at once disturbing and deeply moving.

Often, what we call fragments are not fragments at all, have never entered this narrative of before-and-after. Unfragmented fragments, these small wholes elicit associations with the fragmentary without ever undergoing the trauma of rupture. Fragments were crucial to Benjamin’s massive Arcades Project, but when he committed suicide in 1940 while trying to escape the Nazis, he did not leave behind that work’s fragments—unfinished, it never had the chance to be broken.

There must be a part of our brain that homes in on the interrupted word, the abrupt end, the jagged contour—that edge where continuity breaks off. Fragments are elusive, not only because we can never restore them into some ideal whole, but perhaps because the whole we dream of never existed. The mention of fragments gives us cause to see them everywhere. What we do with them is another matter.

Manuel Burgener works with mostly preexisting objects—photo paper, Ozarka water wrappers, aluminum remnants. Found, sought out, even made, they are set out in the gallery with clear plastic tubing meandering from one group to the next, a circulatory system for a gathering of disparate objects one might reasonably think belongs to the traditions of the Duchampian readymade and post-minimalist installation. But overriding this familiar syntax is a continuous hum, the unceasing drone of a generator running 24 hours a day, powering a vacuum system that pins varied elements to the gallery walls in defiance of gravity: what appears to be scattered is bound, invisibly. Burgener mitigates the vacuum’s power to allow the repositioning of certain elements, but the vacuum goes on, continuous, invisible.

Fragments Kelly Kroener’s compositions and subtly muted palette reshape the lingua franca of twentieth-century abstraction. She executes her pieces in textile formats traditionally set aside as “women’s work” until being claimed by such artists as Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and Jean (Hans) Arp. In some of her works, pieces of thread knot and mass together in larger forms, such as a rectangle, circle or arc, their forms echoing both geometric abstraction as well as the grid of woven fabric or the circularity of the embroidery hoop. In others, layered pieces of fabric recall the curved and angular remnants left behind after cutting out the pattern for an article of clothing to worn close against the body.

In Travis Lycar’s paintings, the granularity of the pigments and their saturated hues tend to isolate each mark. The surfaces of the paintings look dry, with a sense of texture evocative of frottages, rubbings over a textured surface. The colors’ intensity allows one to see the exact moments the pigments hit the linen, moved across it, and trailed out, the load of matter exhausted. Patterns emerge, and although the overall compositions of Lycar’s paintings have a lyricism evocative of natural rhythms, they also generate an impression of scarcity: no fluidity, no pouring or spreading, none of the metaphors of liquidity that often accompany painting, but instead a spare, mineral hardness.

Puppies Puppies’s small sculptures turn the decisive element of a weapon into a surprisingly delicate object. By having handguns stripped down to their trigger mechanisms, Puppies arrives at graceful arabesques of metal that give little indication of the deadly force latent in their activation. This element of the unexpected also resonates with the use of the phrase “trigger warning” to advise that the form or content of certain cultural objects may reactivate the experience of trauma. Trigger warnings are intended to defuse the element of surprise, but the works of Puppies Puppies pose the unsettling question of how much, or how little, of a trigger is needed to remain a trigger.
Observe any fragments of Greek sculpture: a piece of an arm, a hand. What you call the idea, the subject, no longer exists here, but is not all this debris nonetheless admirably beautiful? — Auguste Rodin