The six artists featured in “Life or Something Like It” highlight in their drawings and paintings the importance of imagination over facts, desire over need, life over survival. Molly Merson, the gallerist and curator of this show, invites the viewer to reflect on the intersection between art and life, art as a solid ground for the illusory aspects of life.
Kathy Osborn’s figurative oil paintings convey this premise most directly. Drawing upon her collection of European doll sets, the doll-like figures in her images enact mundane situation, such as sitting on an armchair in a living room or standing by a sink in the bathroom. Lit with an eerie light, each of these solitary characters inhabits an encapsulated domestic environment which altogether resemble uncanny stage sets. Utilizing her fine-tuned skills as an illustrator, this Hudson based artist evokes dark children book illustrations, both nightmarish and funny. Deceptively benign, her universe highlights the illusion of normalcy in domesticity and suggests the artificiality in art as a substitute reality.
If Osborn echoes in her work children books illustrations, Rebecca Raues emulates in her drawings the rawness of children’s art. With few loose lines and spotty colors, this Berlin based artist channels her free forms into dynamic compositions, emitting an urgent sense of disruption. Claudia Chaseling, who splits her time between Canberra and Berlin, also evokes in her imagery a sense of interrupted environments, but within tighter compositions. “Land Escape,” for example, can read as a man-made terrain, between an architectural diagram and a landscape. The prominent curvy lines in the middle and the small reddish blob on the left interrupt the controlled grid infrastructure with unpredictable bursts of energy.
On a larger scale and with bolder color schemes, the Italian painter Silvia Mei’s “Autoritratto Con Mia Figlia” can read as a lament over a mother and daughter relationship, with a surreal bent. This image of a woman with an eerie grin holding an injured girl, is reminiscent of gender-bending sacrificial narrative: Isaac’s sacrifice, Jesus and Mary or characters from Greek Myths come to mind. The image is both personal and archetypal, moving and grotesque.
Jon Campbell’s “Poppy” also conveys dark and grotesque undertones. This acrylic and tempera on paper depicts an anonymous audience, including black attired male figures, a menacing figure with a death mask and a black figure with pink dotted shirt. With its dramatic lights and shadows, this nightmarish and hermetic mindscape emits jarring psychological vibes.
Laurian Constantin Popa’s “Untitled-69” conveys a more abstracted sense of the theatrical within a similarly enclosed space, in which the juxtaposition between the bold geometric boundaries and the anthropomorphic latex form create an engaging drama. Overall, the diverse artworks in this exhibition share moving narratives about loss, finality and the redemptive power we can derive from our imagination. As Merson sums up, without art, life becomes “Something Like It.”
“Life or Something Like It”
Molly Krom gallery
Curated by Molly Merson
Through December 20th
53 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002
Writing by Etty Yaniv http://www.ettyyanivstudio.com/
Photographs courtesy of Etty Yaniv unless otherwise indicated