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Brad Spence: Of Age    Mar 2 - Apr 6, 2013


Les yeux sans visage eyes without a face
Les yeux sans visage eyes without a face

Billy Idol

…the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins…

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

This exhibition of new paintings from Brad Spence suggests memories of flipping through the pages of magazines. Spence’s largest series to date, the works conjure a distinct era of recent history- the late 80s and early 90s.

Women and men look to fashion magazines for doses of fantasy. In the pages are glossy portrayals of luxury, travel, society, and a life lived on a large, romanticized scale. We internalize these images and are inspired to create something out of ourselves; acting as both the subject and the object, creating a visual vocabulary which aspires to certain lifestyles. There is always desire at the root of creating an image- a desire to possess, to control, to become.

The paintings tell the story of a young man’s gaze in an attempt to understand the mystery he finds intrinsic in women; that specific essence described as female, which he cannot relate to but can only observe from a distance. In these paintings, Spence culls archetypical memory of adolescence, and the coming of age for a young man.

There is a departure in the style of painting from his previous work which was painted all in airbrush, and imparted a seamless surface of images that were representational and out of focus. For this body of work, Spence wanted to break free of his previously self-prescribed rules, which included not showing his hand on the canvas.

Throughout the show intentional mark making appears in the form of smudges and finger painting. The finger painting is representative of the Touch, a violation of the hand. The smudge references the body, and mark making suggests a similarity to makeup. Where once, a seamless surface spoke of dreams, memories and psychological space; the newer work suggests concreteness, the introduction or intrusion of the real. Spence allows a painterly vocabulary to come into the work; and along with it, numerous art historical influences.

Color in this series also plays a huge part in the conversation. In place of the muted pastels Spence once worked with, he now chooses bold and severe contrasts, also introducing his use of fluorescent color. The paintings are graphically influenced by mtv music videos, album covers, graphic design, teenage girl’s fashion, burlesque and a jumble of painting styles.

Spence speaks through the imagination of a teenage boy coming of age and bearing witness, through a distance, to the idealization of femininity. It is an unsophisticated and exoticized prism by which gender is stereotyped, admired, fetishized and desired.



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