exhibition Details

Orbits and Entropy

Larry Bookbinder

Annemarie Ní Churreáin

Matthew Girson

Léann Herlihy

Catriona Leahy

Organized by Matthew Girson & Catriona Leahy

February 29 – March 29, 2024

Opening Reception: Thursday, February 29, 6-8pm

Burren College of Art

contact@burrencollege.ie | +353 65 7077200


Orbits and Entropy

The universe expands. Entropy is one of its laws. Orbits are extended and systems breakdown. At some point returns to previous places won’t register as returns at all. Political bodies will rise and fall, and nature will reclaim everything. Until then the objects, images, and words included in this exhibition remind us to navigate carefully.


In 1965 Robert Smithson published “Entropy and the New Monuments” in which he referred to the “impure-purist” surfaces found in abstract art of the time. Formal “purity” in abstract art of the twentieth century was the core goal of Modernists from Mondrian to Reinhardt and many others. This core operated like a spinning hub around which late Modernist gestures were measured.

In contrast, Smithson’s artwork and writing took an entropic position and plotted a course away from strict or “pure” formalist conceits toward other models for thinking and making. Like many others then, and a growing number since, many artists today operate as if there is no central artistic hub, no gravitational creative core. These artists form trajectories that simultaneously point away from formal purity and toward other references from the vast archives of culture, history, and the abundance of nature.

Splintered into thousands of creative tangents away from the singularity of the Modernist core, these artists think more globally, and their output is much less narrowly focused. Some point away entirely, plotting trajectories out of any orbit altogether. Others orbit more distantly, with more or less regularity, but continue to circle around Modernist themes as if its gravity still has some pull.

The artists in Orbits and Entropy are part of this latter community of artists. Their work embodies many late Modern formal elements while mixing in references to other subjects and themes that echo some of the entropic qualities that Smithson advanced. Their work suggests that Modernist values still demand our attention, if only to better understand how and why we move away from them.

 Catriona Leahy’s prints, projections and other works explore natural entropy – how the land is affected by industry and policy. Her ongoing project “Metabolic Rift” explores the irreparable rupture between people and landscape in relation to exploitation of natural resources. Through this work, she reveals latent faults – visual, metaphorical, geographical – that manifest as a result of historic colonial rule and the resulting fragmentation of the Irish landscape.

 The photographic series Beyond Survival Expert (2022) originates from Léann Herlihy’s larger transdisciplinary project the middle of nowhere (2022). Concerned with the subjectivity of space-making, the middle of nowhere seeks to criticize the increasingly reductive approach of stripping space of its complexities. Situated in a natural landscape, this body of work emphasises how an alternative vision of natural phenomena can de-centre the rigid social order of racial capitalism’s prioritised dichotomy of gender and sexual binaries—a dichotomy  that varies in definition from one historical and socio-cultural context to another. So, what grounds our conception of gender, sexuality and desire after nature?

Poems by Annemarie Ní Churreáin often operate at the intersection of familial warmth and the cold reality of State institutions. In her own words, Ní Churreáin often engages with “records, archives and testimony whilst also drawing playfully from folklore, superstition, cures, magic rituals and pre-Christian landscapes.”

Matthew Girson’s paintings lean heavily into the legacy of flat, abstract Modernist painting, but their form points into traditions of representation. Silver and monotone, his subjects reflect Modernist institutions of power from his home country of the United States. The reflective surfaces in the paintings necessarily pull the viewer into the process of looking, while also denying entry into the spaces they depict.

Larry Bookbinder’s paintings of party ribbons, holiday lights, and reflective mylar continue the tradition of observational still life painting. Their dense compositions and muted palettes counter Girson’s reflective paintings of interiors. The former are representations of reflected color and light, the latter literally reflect the color and light around them. 


About the Artists

CATRIONA LEAHY is an artist working variously across the media of print, experimental analogue photography, moving image and installation. Her practice explores deep time environmental histories and the impact of anthropogenic degradation on landscape. Catriona has exhibited both nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include “Radical Archaeologies” currently at The Glucksman Gallery, and “Agitation Co-op” at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (2021). Her work is included in both private and public collections including UCC Art Collection and The Arts Council Collection. She will have her first Solo show at the Ashford Gallery, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin in November 2024. She is supported by Arts Council Visual Arts Bursary 2023.

LÉANN HERLIHY (they/them) is an artist, researcher and educator based in Dublin. Their practice is informed by trans*, queer ecological, feminist and abolitionist theoretical frameworks which deploys alternative modalities of expression through an array of mediums including live performance, video, billboards, sculpture, text, workshops and radical pedagogies.

ANNEMARIE NÍ CHURREÁIN is a poet from the Donegal Gaeltacht. Her books include Bloodroot (Doire Press, 2017), Town (The Salvage Press, 2018) and The Poison Glen (The Gallery Press, 2021). She is a recipient of the Arts Council’s Next Generation Artist Award and a co-recipient of The Markievicz Award. The Yale Review has reported that Ní Churreáin “often captures a whole world of cultural and historical implications in a single, simple, but metaphorically rich image”.  Ní Churreáin has held literary fellowships in the U.S. and throughout Europe. She is the poetry editor at The Stinging Fly magazine. Visit www.studiotwentyfive.com

MATTHEW GIRSON is an artist, curator and writer based in Oak Park, Illinois. Recurrent themes include the legacy of late Modernist painting, failures and limitations of modern democratic states and institutions, and where the two intersect. His work is included in numerous private and public art collections. The Larry Bookbinder Project expands the range of Girson’s creative practice without deviating from his primary concerns. Girson is a Professor of Art at DePaul University in Chicago.