Sep 132023

Elsa María Meléndez, “Milk”, 2020, Canvas with silkscreen, embroidery, ink, and other textiles

Elsa María Meléndez–  Milk, 2020

Elsa María Meléndez routinely crosses the boundaries between artistic mediums in large-scale artworks that command space and attention. Combining silkscreen, drawing, and various needlework techniques, Milk portrays the artist charging forward, determined. She carries a limp bull and advances while her breasts drip glistening drops of milk.

Created six months into the COVID-19 lockdown, this artwork encapsulates Meléndez’s reflection on the fight for gender equality in Puerto Rico. As people went into quarantine, gender violence escalated around the world. In Puerto Rico, where femicides increased substantially, feminist organizations took to the streets, demanding that the government declare a state of emergency. They received the scorn of substantial sectors of society, across gender lines. In response, Meléndez created Milk, an icon of indomitability that recognizes the strength of women and their life-sustaining force while acknowledging their willingness to nurse the beast that sustains patriarchy.

Timothy Lee “A portrait of the comet boy as a bearer of memories”, 2019, Silk, heat-transfer ink, gold leaf, and oil on canvas

Timothy LeeA portrait of the comet boy as a bearer of memories, 2019

In his practice, Timothy Lee investigates his struggles with anxiety, which he feels stem from his Asian American, queer, immigrant, and diasporic identities. Yet, while drawing from his personal narratives more broadly, Lee also attends to the disquieting complexities that are intrinsic to growing up as part of two cultures.

The ironic figure of the “comet boy,” visualized here as if emerging from a halo, is both an embrace of and a departure from the artist’s past. The dynamic interplay of light, shadow, and texture evince the layered nature of Lee’s inquiry. A keen attention to materials and precision, as evidenced by the incised cuts throughout much of the work’s surface, allude to the artist’s earlier scientific training. Snapshots of the artist’s childhood in South Korea emblazon the comet boy’s body. Memories, and with them the past, become part of the flesh, like tattoos.

Clarissa Bonet “Glimpse”, 2019, Inkjet print

Clarissa BonetGlimpse, 2019 from the City Space series

The discovery of a figure amongst a grid of windows and vertical blinds conjures the disorienting situation of coming upon an unknown face peeking through a window. With that chance encounter comes the recognition that one is being watched, possibly even surveilled. Glimpse is part of a series that explores urban life, specifically the relationship between private and public spaces and the daily experiences of those traversing these areas, including those of the artist.

Though made before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, for Clarissa Bonet, this photograph brings to mind the recent state of being “isolated from the public spaces we all used to enjoy freely.” The unidentified woman may be looking onto an unknown subject left out of the composition, or onto nothing at all.

Ilene Spiewak “Deeper into the Isolation of Self Information and Gender”, 2020, Acrylic paint and charcoal on canvas

Ilene Spiewak–  Deeper into the Isolation of Self Information and Gender, 2020

For over fifty years, Ilene Spiewak has focused on the relations between color and visual space, painting at the edge of representation and abstraction. The introspection and solitude brought by the pandemic made her compositions more sparse and her palette more restrained. “I realized what I had in my studio was myself always. . .. I began to insert myself in my paintings more than I was conscious of in the past.”

In this self-portrait, Spiewak outlines her silhouette in charcoal. Her face and nude torso are rendered in soft shades of white, pink, and gray that push against the yellow background. With frankness, she paints her aging body, countering centuries of idealized, youthful, slender female nudes in art. By placing her figure off-center on the picture plane, with her right arm extended but truncated, Spiewak subtly allows us into the intimate act of observing and painting herself.

Inga Guzyte “Cutting Edge”, 2020, from the “Kindred Spirits” series, Wood and used skateboards

Inga Guzyte–  Cutting Edge, 2020, from the Kindred Spirits series

Inga Guzyte recycles old skateboards, sawing and reassembling them into new sculptural configurations. Cutting Edge, a portrait of Alison Saar, is from Guzyte’s series “Kindred Spirits.” which honors women who have made their mark in the art world. The ethos of bravery and independence that is part of skateboard culture conveys the tenacity and perseverance of Guzyte’s role models.

Aptly made from reclaimed wood, a recurrent material in Saar’s sculptures and installations, this portrait stands between painting and sculpture. Saar’s expression evokes her fierceness and commitment to her practice. Her headdress points to her Afro-diasporic background, while its dynamic red and orange twists suggest her fiery creative energy. Like a flame, the headwrap attracts a multitude of moths, which recur in Saar’s work to signify a go- between for the real world and the spiritual world.

This exhibition is on view until 10/8/23.