For immediate release
David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to present Body & Paint, the first U.S. solo exhibition by Los Angeles based painter Amy Bessone. The opening reception will be held on Saturday, September 8th from 7 to 10pm, and the exhibition will be on view through October 13th. Bessone unveils four new large-scale figurative paintings that challenge notions of representation and femininity, while asserting the power of painting to act as both a sensual and elegantly political medium.
Bessone’s new works are based on photographs of porcelain female figurines culled from auction catalogs. Their paradigmatic postures evoke the archetypes both of classical sculpture and early studio photography. Accompanied only by minimally worked pedestals, the figures are aggressively decontextualized. The viewer must weather a head-on confrontation with the “anatomy” of these porcelain objects, positioned as they are at the forefront of the frame.
Three of the paintings feature young pistillate female nudes, their eyes averted, but solid breasts and thighs presented with near-pornographic forwardness. Their origins as porcelain tchotchke, however, pose a challenge to this sense of bodily exposure. The fourth, an older woman staring vainly into a mirror, is less of an Edenic ideal. If feminist theory has the “male gaze” transforming the woman into an object, what are the implications of this woman – who is technically an object to begin with – turning her own gaze upon herself? As the oldest model featured, she seems to indicate movement towards self-awareness. Indeed, these works serve as a record of constant metamorphoses: in scale, dimension (from object to staged photograph to painting), and cultural value.
These paintings alternate between reading as representations of real bodies and as images of imperfectly crafted figurines. Although her models are kitsch objects, Bessone paints with sincerity, earnestly mimicking both the realism and marked imperfections of the tiny porcelain sculptures. Fingers are more paw-like than human, and idiosyncrasies of the molds are transferred to the canvas, reminding us that this is a representation many times over. Furthermore, Bessone frequently reproduces the ‘Home Shopping Network’ style of lighting from the catalog photographs she references, affording the paintings a cinematic quality. By inserting herself into a lineage of many stages of mediation, Bessone simultaneously kills and highlights the agency of the artist.
This work contends with the history of figuration, the monument, and the long tradition of rendering sculptures two-dimensionally. But Bessone takes the art historical canon and explodes it. In representing collectible knick-knacks locked in poses reminiscent of classical nudes, Bessone underscores the trickle down effect between “high” and “low” art. On the other hand, by representing them in paint, she elevates the objects referenced in her work, thus illustrating the wafting up from “low” to “high,” and further asserting the irrelevance of hierarchies of cultural production. The importance of context and presentation in both the art world and the market for these porcelain collector’s items underscores the parallels between the two, identifying both as traffickers in luxury goods.
The demure bearing common to all four figures counters the confrontational tone of Bessone’s canvases. This parallels a tension in her practice between political engagement and withdrawal into the act and traditions of painting. When Bessone began her career in the early 1990s, she sidestepped both contemporary trends towards irony and the overtly political sensibility embraced by many female artists of the era. She presents a complexly mediated and critically loaded examination of the female form, but the paintings are neither didactic nor ironic. Rather, in their light touch and painterly attention to surfaces, they betray the pleasure of painting itself.
Amy Bessone will have a solo exhibition at Salon 94 in New York in Spring 2008. She was included in Red Eye: Los Angeles Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL (2007). In 2005 she participated in the group exhibitions Both Ends Burning at the David Kordansky Gallery and b.a.-ba, un choix dans la collection du Frac Bretagne at Domaine de Kerguéhennec, Bignan, France.
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