A New Show Featuring 21st-Century Twists on Figurative Painting Depicts Subversive, Chimerical, and Gender-Fluid Bodies—See It Here

As galleries around the world begin to slowly reopen, we are spotlighting individual shows—online and IRL—that are worth your attention.

Nadia Waheed, Absolution (2020). Courtesy of the artist.
Nadia Waheed, Absolution (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

As galleries around the world begin to slowly reopen, we are spotlighting individual shows—online and IRL—that are worth of your attention. 

 

This Sacred Vessel (pt.2)
through August 23
at Arsenal Contemporary Art, New York

 

What the gallery says: “Arsenal Contemporary Art New York is pleased to present ‘This Sacred Vessel (pt. 2).’ After exploring how the relevance of landscape painting is informed by ecological anxiety in ‘This Sacred Vessel (pt. 1),’ this new iteration turns to the long-established heritage of figurative painting. In a society where images of bodies are pervasive, the nine artists gathered in this exhibition toy with the codes of the canonical genre to present gender-bending, culturally ambiguous, tragicomic figures that disturb the normalizing standards that proliferate in popular culture. Under their skilled brushstrokes, these artists reconfigure the body as symbolic sites.

Shelley Adler’s paintings are recognizable by their serene atmosphere. The artist’s models dominate the pictorial plane with poised eminence. In turn, Kim Dorland’s self-portraits are defined by the fervor of his paint application. The thick relief of the surface creates an anxiety-induced depiction that inspire a visceral response. Through an equally rich palette of colors, Eliza Griffiths transports the viewer into bright dreamlike universes in which droll communities interact with depth, drama and earnestness. There is a comparable surreal playfulness in Marion Wagschal’s paintings: a work inspired by chimera rather than reality. Fantasy is also the subject of Sarah Letovsky who depicts women in moments of reverie. Her work implies spaces far beyond the pictorial plane—ones only accessible through the minds of her subjects.

Humor is present in both the work of Walter Scott and Bambou Gili. Drawn by the tradition of comic books, Scott’s drawings take from his experience and from fiction to construct subversive narratives that poke fun at the pomposity of the art world. Moments of trepidation and relaxation in which the figures confront the voyeuristic gaze of the viewer enliven Gili’s cerulean tableaux. One way to depict the over consumption of images in our society is to turn to issues of privacy. Werner leverages this awareness via paintings that depict gentle body parts of female bodies. Nadia Waheed uses Eastern iconography as a way to address issues of intimacy and identity in paintings that have a subtle dynamism.”

Why it’s worth a look: This follow up to the equally immersive show “This Sacred Vessel (pt.1)” at the Lower East Side’s Arsenal Contemporary juxtaposes emerging artists with more established painters, all exploring figurative painting.

With varying processes of paint application, and a diverse color palette, each artist evokes a specific aspect of the human form, sometimes in a fantastical space. With a dearth of human contact these days, many artists (and non artists alike) are turning their eyes on themselves, and here are the fruits of that introspection, idealized and not.

What it looks like:

Bambou Gili, Purple Painting (Large) (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view, "This Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)" at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Installation view, “This Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)” at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Nadia Waheed, Absolution (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

Janet Werner, Untitled, Reach (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view, "Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)" at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Installation view, “This Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)” at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Kim Dorland, Young Man by a Riverbank (2010). Courtesy of the artist.

Bambou Gili, Ophelia in the tub (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

Shelley Adler, Katherine With a Cigarette (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view, "Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)" at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Installation view, “This Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)” at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Sarah Letowsky, Staring into Middle Distance Thinking of Nothing At All (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

Sarah Letovsky, Small Plate, Big World (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view, "Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)" at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Installation view, “This Sacred Vessel (pt. 2)” at Arsenal Contemporary, New York. Photo: Greg Carideo.

Eliza Griffiths, Urban Narative (2015). Courtesy of the artist.


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