The video installation is based on Musidora, the French silent film actress, and the character she is best known for Irma Vep from the 1915 film Les Vampires directed by Louis Feuillade.
From the exhibition’s caption-
It’s a piece about living in the shadows, criminal anxiety, and the relationship between the artist and her creation, both fictional and real.
Irma Vep and Musidora are played by Zackary Drucker (Transparent) and the late Flawless Sabrina (The Queen), two artists whose identities transgress the border of art and life. Together, they developed a relationship that documents a cultural evolution of gender.
Musidora was an early 20th century feminist who took control of her career, not only acting, but also producing/directing films and theater. She was an artistic force of her time, producing several works by her lover Colette and having many documented affairs with both men and women. After financing dried up for her projects, she lived in relative obscurity until her death in Paris, 1957. In her later years, she worked the ticket booth of the Cinematheque Francaise, where few people ever knew that the woman selling them their movie tickets was France’s beloved vamp of the silver screen.
Irma Vep, The Last Breath takes up motifs from the silent movie such as gazes, affected body language and the figure of the masked woman. It’s shot on a starkly illuminated set that makes space for anxious projections of desire on the void that is Irma Vep- a space between genders, between vamps of the silent era and the contemporary queer- smashing the shiny veneer to reveal dark, subconscious layers of fluid identity.
The film is part of the larger exhibition Idol Worship, a group show curated by Emily Colucci, at Smack Mellon which “celebrates the ongoing cultural, social and political significance of role model adoration as an essential survival strategy”.
The exhibition closes 12/29/19.
Hauser & Wirth is currently showing two painting exhibitions. On the ground floor of their 22nd Street location are Ed Clark’s gorgeous abstract works, some of which are pictured above. The paintings on view are recent, made between 2000 and 2013. Created on the floor using a push broom, there is a high energy in the motion and blend of color in these canvases.
Sadly, Clark passed away on Friday, October 18th at the age of 93. He was an innovative abstract painter who worked for more than 60 years. This is a wonderful opportunity to see his work in person.
On the second floor of the gallery is Amy Sherald’s the heart of the matter… , (pictured below) her inaugural exhibition with the gallery. If her style looks familiar, it may be because she gained a lot of attention with her portrait of Michelle Obama for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
From the press release-
Informed by the artist’s reading of key texts that explore tensions between interior and public realms, the heart of the matter… draws its title from the first chapter of bell hooks’ seminal book ‘Salvation,’ and builds on themes of silence and stillness explored in Kevin Quashie’s ‘Sovereignty of Quiet’ and U.S. Poet Laureate Elizabeth Alexander’s ‘Black Interior.’ In her new paintings, Sherald considers how these relate to the conceptualization of blackness as it is represented publicly, questioning representation of black identity, which often negates the complex reality of an interior life. She envisions black American identity beyond the conceits to which it has largely been restricted, attempting to restore a broader, fuller picture of humanity.
Sherald’s portraits are vivid, large in scale but intimate in effect, capturing both the ordinary likeness and extraordinary essence of her subjects while simultaneously detaching them from everyday reality. Varying in expressiveness, gesture, clothing, and emotional auras, the individuals portrayed maintain a persistent sense of privacy and mystery, requiring viewers to ponder the sitters’ thoughts and dreams. Drawn to each of her subjects instinctively and spontaneously, these ‘Americans doing everyday American things,’ as Sherald has described them, are part of an informal network of people who populate our universe.
Once Sherald commences painting, a transformational moment ensues as the artist begins to view her sitter as an archetype in the history of representation and therefore a vehicle for challenging assumptions. Working from carefully composed and dramatically staged photographs, Sherald situates her subjects in brightly colored, ambiguous environments, then meticulously tweaks expressions and patterns to emphasize a sense of universality and connection. While her subjects are always African-American, Sherald renders their skin-tone exclusively in grisaille – an absence of color that directly challenges perceptions of black identity.
the heart of the matter… debuts two paintings that reach a new, monumental scale for the artist. In these works, Sherald’s monochromatic backgrounds evolve into fully realized scenes that reference quintessential Americana: friends posed at the beach and a man atop a metal construction beam. For the latter, Sherald draws inspiration from Charles C. Ebbet’s iconic photography of 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Sherald often looks to vintage photography for source material, drawn to what she describes as its capacity ‘to narrate a truer history that counters a dominant historical narrative… Photography was the first medium I saw that made what was absent, visible.’ Sherald continues, ‘It gave people who once had no control over the proliferation of their own image the ability to become authors of their narratives.’ By mining and positioning images associated with archetypal or nostalgic American moments – burgeoning industry, sunny beachside locales – Sherald is able to firmly situate and make fully visible black Americans within the canon of American iconography. In this way, her portraits reclaim space and author a narrative for people that official art history omitted, speaking to the human condition and holding up a mirror to American life.
Lastly, take a trip to the top floor for the group show Personal Private Public, a group exhibition “exploring the idea of the inner life in three main themes: introspection, intimacy, and voyeurism”. The exhibition includes work by Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Ivy Haldeman, Celia Hempton, Tala Madani, Paul McCarthy, B. Ingrid Olson, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Emily Mae Smith, Mira Schor, and Kohei Yoshiyuki.
All three of these exhibitions close 10/26/19.
Currently at Walter Maciel Gallery is With Liberty and Justice for Some, for which the gallery invited artists from across the country to do 8×8 inch portraits of individuals who came to the United States as immigrants- including historic subjects, personal friends, relatives, strangers, and sometimes self portraits. The gallery is also donating a portion of each sale to various non-profit groups including ACLU, Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, Center for Reproductive Rights, and the LA and SF LGBT Centers. Also showing at the gallery is I.D. Please!, with works by artists Hung Liu, John Bankston, Lezley Saar, John Jurayi, Maria E. Piñeres, Nike Schröder, Dana Weiser and Monica Lundy, who have all developed studio practices based around notions of identity.
This exhibition closes 3/4/17.
Also closing this weekend in Culver City-
Egan Frantz’s The Oat Paintings at Roberts & Tilton
(image via Roberts & Tilton)
And at Kopeikin Gallery are Ardeshir Tabrizi’s Observations in Linear Time (palm tree), and Jason Engelund’s Meta-Landscapes and Visual Ambient Drones (blue).