Jun 232021
 

Quarantine, 2018

This painting is from Julie Curtiss’ exhibition Altered States at VSF gallery in Los Angeles in 2018.

From the press release from that show-

Depicting mostly female subjects in her works, Curtiss creates an undulating dreamscape where the depths of a woman’s psyche are as important and palpable as her body. Rife with swirling curvatures and oscillating lines that convey both physical movement as well as cognitive dissonance, Curtiss’ subjects are secretive and faceless, inhabiting uncanny narratives driven by the logic of dreams. Teetering between dichotomies of seduction and repulsion, feral and domestic, their countenances are strategically concealed with thick mounds of serpentine hair, clawed hands and razor-sharp nails that conjure the anatomy of cold-blooded beasts. For Curtiss’ latest series of paintings and gouaches on paper, marine imagery permeates the narratives: koi, lotuses, fishtails in lieu of feet, a lobster claw clasping a glossy manicured finger … a nod to the 1980s science-fiction film “Altered States,” whose protagonist descends into a bottomless search for the self by way of floatation tanks – sensory deprivation chambers filled with body-temperature saltwater (water being the Jungian dream symbol for the unconscious). While Curtiss invites us to dive deeper into the layered, mercurial mind of her subjects, we are inevitably faced with a reflection of our own subconscious.

She is currently showing her newer work, which includes sculptures, at White Cube Mason’s Yard, in an exhibition titled Monads and Dyads, closing 6/26/21.

Oct 232019
 

Currently at Various Small Fires gallery in Los Angeles is Robin F. Williams’ painting exhibition, With Pleasure.

From the press release-

In a series of new paintings that re-imagine the coded narratives of American media, Williams isolates and derails the sexual suggestiveness, pandering strategies, and gendered objectifications utilized in representations of women.

Embodiments of feminine AIs (Siri and Alexa) as nude figures lend Williams’ paintings an air of consciousness, as if aware of the viewer and their own status as female simulacrum. Appropriated from cigarette ad campaigns, paintings such as Alive With Pleasure, Alexa Plays Ball, and Slow Clap subvert their cast of sexually compliant “cool girls” who catch footballs, play around the ankles of men, and smoke seductively. By contrast, Williams’ subjects are stone-faced and defiant, unwilling to embody the latent desires of the viewer.

Williams’ paintings play with chronology both through distinctive painting techniques such as stain painting and airbrushing, and through visual markers recreated and reimagined for the present day. In Slow Clap, a cigarette is replaced by the newer, yet equally ominous vape; a languid repose is substituted for a derisive “slow clap”, the gap between the subject’s hands leaving her gesture permanently unresolved. Eye on the Time depicts a black woman with tightly coiffed 1960s afro who impatiently turns her gaze away from the burning 4th of July sparkler in one hand to the wristwatch on her other arm, counting down the seconds for its patriotic light to extinguish. In Weathervane, a gymnast appropriated from a 1972 Life Magazine cover poses precariously on a rooftop amidst an approaching storm; she gazes out coldly toward the viewer, the purveyor of her ornamental function.

In each painting, Williams’ female figures wait, caught in a perpetual state of questioning, forever burning, and locking eyes as if to challenge their embodied roles: woman as technology, tool, or paragon. These figures, aware of their identity as paintings, must answer the call to remain frozen in time. They refuse, however, to do it with pleasure.

This show closes 10/26/19.

May 092019
 

Various Small Fires (VSF) is currently showing unholy ghost, Diedrick Brackens’ first solo exhibition at the gallery.

From the press release-

Employing the loom to explore intricate weaving techniques from West Africa, Kente textiles, and European tapestries, Brackens stitches together narratives of the American South, rebirth, and the changing of seasons for his new body of work. The titles and themes for this exhibition take inspiration from Essex Hemphill’s poem The Father, Son and Unholy Ghosts.

For Brackens, who identifies as a black queer person, the act of naming and birthing oneself is a radical gesture. Drawing from his personal life, ancestry, American history, and folklore, Brackens’ weavings are encoded with symbolic animals and materials that tease the knotted threads of American identity and sociopolitics. A bloodhound sniffs the ground for a subterranean figure in hiding, alluding to the terrorization of black bodies through the omnipresence of state-sanctioned violence. Catfish, on the other hand, occupy the space of spirits; swimming parallel to a levitating body, inside the heart of an aquatic being, or by hands outstretched to the sky, they are both ancestor and sustenance, the origin of human life. The silhouetted figures are born from Brackens’ projected shadow, a mirror of the self sewn with jet black yarns.

Brackens was included in Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. 2018, their biennial exhibition of artists from the greater Los Angeles area. Below is a video made for that show that shows the artist creating and discussing his work.

Also on view are Anna Sew Hoy’s sculptures (pictured below) and a sound program by Dawn Kasper that plays in the entrance to the courtyard of the gallery space.

These exhibitions will close 5/11/19.