Genevieve Blais, a photographer based in Toronto, borrows imagery from classic art history paintings to unpack sexual politics relative to today’s contemporary palate.
Of her intention, Blais states, “The aesthetic/topical dissonance aims to elicit an uneasy response in order to subvert the implicit authority and sanctity of the icon.”
The result confronts and critiques art culture by sitting in an uneasy space between not only imagery, but also mediums– cameras and brushes, forcing us to clearly see the model as the true determinant– a staged powerful variant that has been with us since Caravaggio’s rule, humanizing the myth.
Artist Josefina Concha, with the aid of a sewing machine in lieu of a brush, weaves her work into being. Full of texture and threaded messy shapes of color, her stitching fascinatingly harkens back to Mark Tobey’s thoughts on abstract expressionism: “A painting should be a textile, a texture. That’s enough! Perhaps I was influenced by my mother. She used to sew and sew. I can still see that needle going. Maybe that’s what I’d rather do than anything with the brush-like stitching over and over and over, laying it in, going over, bringing it up. Bringing it up. That’s what is difficult.”
However, of her own approach, Concha strives not just to simulate, but replace painting with crafting techniques, a medium formerly equated primarily with domestic labor. She explains, “The building of my work is articulated through the investment of a material (the thread) on a piece of cloth, and the time dedicated to sew it. This is made visible in the superimposition of weaves that in short will generate a thickness (body) and a sensation of volume, dominated by the treatment of color and optical mixtures, to which I turn to with the eagerness of creating suggestive images that appeal to the ephemeral.”
Iconic and lovely Louise Bourgeois once said, “The feminists took me as a role model, as a mother. It bothers me. I am not interested in being a mother. I am still a girl trying to understand myself.”
Likewise, one might suggest that the soft and silicone rubber sculptures of Michelle Carla Handel, collected here, are conceptually doing something similar, but with a splash of Claes Oldenburg’s wit and color pop.
Each piece feels intriguingly pubescent: exploring the grotesque softness of bodies and gender through seemingly pliable forms that physically confuse or bend out of shape, emotionally heaving with discovery and wear.
As traditional Middle America and the housing market continues to breakdown, its imagery on the television or in advertising seems to persist, with an eerie commercialized flatness. It is here, in this strange space, where artist Lori Larusso’s work finds its stride.
Of her paintings, Larusso explains: “I am interested in exploring the unavoidable contradictions which exist in our personal (and collective) systems of belief, by pointing to the complexity of individual situations. Very often, our ideals are a reflection of the way we wish things were, rather than a product of the way we actually experience them. I find this conflict to be in direct connection to the representational image.”
Kathryn Mayo and Doug Winter, a husband and wife photography team based in Sacramento, collaborate with their models to create vintage portraits, seemingly of the past, using the traditional wet plate collodion process. This type of photography was born in the 1850s, but soon faded from the foreground, due to the proliferation of more practical, less time consuming processes involving dry gelatin emulsion.
However, in today’s fast-paced iPhone app culture, where formatting is clean, easy, and instantaneous, ironically, the slow painstaking process is exactly what this artistic pair prefer about collodion. Mayo elaborates, “Each image takes about 15-20 minutes to complete from focusing the camera, coating and sensitizing the plate, exposing, and processing. So, models need to have patience as not each image comes out perfect, and it takes a few to get one we like–sometimes, there are times when the chemistry isn’t working up to par and we don’t get anything at all.” Regardless of outcome, their passion is not just about product, but discovery and investigation. Mayo continues, “I love the idea of using a process steeped in history and with the ghosts of photographers who have come before me. It is a process that is wholly addicting.”
Phoebe Washburn’s constructions, built from found or discarded objects such as plants, plywood, cardboard, or fish tanks, to name a few, have been gaining critical acclaim and momentum since 2008, when she took part in the coveted Whitney Biennial.
Of her craft and salvage, in W Magazine, Washburn states: “I’m not green; I’m greedy . . . There’s definitely an aspect of hoarding that drives this, absolutely! If I see someone walking down the street with a nice piece of wood, I’m like, Where did they get that?”
Her approach to discussing art is as playful and humble as the structures themselves, or their titles, which range from “Nunderwater Nort Lab” (above, top) to “Baby Brain (Not Safe for Use as Jacuzzi)” (above, below).
Kim Tucker’s ceramic sculptures are burly messes of gender– exorcising primal desires, akin to a Bukowski or Fante novel, with a dash of Freud, but crafted with more of a surrealistic feminine charge. Each nude, for example, sexually and emotionally gestures at our gentle need for communion from one body to the next, illustrating psychologically how we bleed failure, rejection, isolation or loss.
KCRW’s Laura Schumate laments on each figure’s soft absorption: “There’s a desire to protect them like your own children or a friend, while acknowledging their familiar sorrow within yourself.”
On that note, the entire menagerie evokes not only Tucker’s inner children, but also our own, as they engage in “psychological storytelling”– narrating open wounds we are inclined to protect, lick, mother, or share: a deep commiseration over the tragedy of bodily confinement.
Portia Munson’s latest show at P.P.O.W uses photography, installation, and sculpture to create a vibrant and colorful atmosphere that examines nature, including our own.
Entering the gallery, photographic wallpaper of dandelions reach out from under a series of still life prints or memento mori: images of actual flower blossoms, carefully arranged by the artist as a mandala, inside of which, a woodland creature, formerly found along the roadside, nestles.
Of her imaging process, Munson elaborates, “I use the scanner like a large-format camera. I lay flowers directly onto it, allowing pollen and other flower stuff to fall onto the glass and become part of the image. When the high-resolution scans are enlarged, amazing details and natural structures emerge. Every flower mandala is unique to a moment in time, represents what is in bloom on the day I made it.”
When shown alongside Munson’s other piece: Reflecting Pool, a “congested installation” of heaping blue landfill trash, we are forced to confront our natural instincts– to build and discard with quick irreverence.