Susanne Vielmetter’s Gallery in Culver City actually has three separate solo shows up this month (Kristin Calabrese, Monique van Genderen and Mindy Shapero) and all are worth a visit, but Calabrese’s paintings particularly resonated with me this afternoon.
Her show, entitled “Back of My Face,” is described by the artist a direct expression of her emotional life rendered as objects. And, the most interesting paintings in her show begin to take on the role of fragments of her personality as both a human being and as an ambitious, engaged artist.
The first painting one encounters in the show, Sabotage Bitch, pictured above, seems to be a representation of several things: most obviously, the sort of ugly, petty emotions one might quietly harbor, but never reveal.
More interestingly, the piece itself has the cool appearance of the sort of coy artwork that might be more than completely at home, but only mildly remarkable in any generic high-stakes international contemporary art fair context. And, since Calabrese is mostly known for her highly refined realistic painting chops, which the rest of the show ably demonstrates, the piece feels like a strange, out of place anomaly. Take a look at the painting’s materials and its combination of (water-based) acrylic and oil paint might suggest that the piece is, in a sense, “sabotaging” itself by means of mixing materials that can’t be used together without soon peeling.
OOPS… as I now understand it – “(Sabotage Bitch) is an acrylic ground with oil on top – similar to most oil paintings with a gesso ground – so it’s archival and won’t peel.” (Thanks for the correction, Kristin!)
Another piece, Art as Bandaid, has a title alluding to the therapeutic value of art, or perhaps the way that surfaces can be used to conceal problems. From afar, the painting is a giant, pleasantly-textured, tastefully minimal dot. Look closely, and it seems to be entirely comprised of bandaids. Look even closer and the bandaids prove to be a zillion realistically-painted bandaids.
The tedium and concentration that must have gone into this painting’s making either belies the conceit of painting as therapeutic or suggests that it could only have been made by a person who finds such an activity meditative – or maybe both.
The most daring piece in the show is Blending In, which portrays the artist as a self-conscious buffoon, covered with scrutinizing eyes. The piece joyously speaks to the sorry recognition that public sincerity risks public ridicule .