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Chitra Ganesh has made her name in the art world by defamiliarizing canonical narratives—integrating popular imagery like Bollywood posters, anime, and comic books with lesser known Hindu and Buddhist icons as well as 19th century European fairly tales. The resulting images participate in the nuanced conversation surrounding contemporary imperialism, subalternity, and the subversion of power. Specifically, much of Ganesh’s work engages with the colonial Indian term junglee, which literally translates to “of the jungle.” Though the idiom is traditionally used to denote women who are perceived as wild, defiant, or transgressive, Ganesh utilizes the term to empower her female protagonists who often include pin-ups, priestesses, warriors, witches, mothers, and goddesses.1

Her mixed media collage, Cat Women Series, epitomizes this kitschy, enigmatic, and complex style, making use of handmade paper, embroidery, drawing, and painting, as well as a wealth of inscrutable folkloric references. While bizarre and slippery, Cat Women Series seems to deal with conflicting expectations of femininity in practical application. Though the smoking, nude, headless, and three-breasted heroine appears to be running, given the position of her leg and athletic footwear, her other leg has been taken over by an enormous rose—a clichéd indicator of romantic love in Western traditions. In this struggle between running and the rose, the protagonist is reproachfully monitored by an open book, which may indicate expectations of female independence derived from higher education or the omnipresence of patriarchal narratives. Overall, the work imparts a vibrant sense of stasis—trapped headless between domineering narratives, expectant love, and an enormous plume of smoke—that can be read as a commentary on the condition of being a woman in post-colonial post-modernity.

Ganesh has remained relatively close-lipped about the exact meanings of her pieces. In fact, she has stated that she intends her images to have “friction” and “dissonance” between text and image, which contributes significantly to the general sense of mystery and peculiarity in her work.2 She has however been very clear about her intent to confront and subvert traditional power dynamics through her work by privileging “buried narratives or marginalized figures typically excluded from official canons of history, literature, and art.”3

Ganesh has exhibited widely in the United States and abroad and has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Art Matters Foundation Grant, and a Columbia University Dean’s Fellowship. She is currently a collaborator with artist Miriam Ghani on the Index of the Disappeared, an ongoing so-called “parasitic archive” of the disappearance of immigrant, ‘other,’ and dissenting communities post-9/11. She received her MFA in painting from Columbia University and her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature and Art-Semiotics from Brown.

– Rica Maestas

1Gopenath, Gayatri. “Chitra Ganesh’s Queer Re-Visions.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2009): 469.
2Ibid., 471.
3Ibid., 469.

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The David Winton Bell Gallery is excited to announce a new addition to our collection – Vik Muniz’s George Stinney Jr., Album. Known for his playful work in experimental media, this highly influential Brazilian artist reimagines popular imagery—like Warhol’s screenprints of the Mona Lisa or Hans Namuth’s photos of Jackson Pollock—in substances like chocolate syrup, sugar, spaghetti, peanut butter and jelly, and industrial garbage. The often deceiving and optically manipulated photographs of these experimental compositions have been exhibited in contemporary art establishments world-wide, notably at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and El Museu de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo.

In his Album series, Muniz utilizes thousands of second-hand-store scrapbook pictures to construct larger images of common personal themes—childhood photos, vacation snapshots, a candid moment with a loved one. In addition to adding a painterly texture to each rendition, the use of deconstructed photographs to compose a larger image emphasizes the universality of experience and introduces a historic depth to ordinary moments.

The iconic mug shot of George Stinney Jr., the youngest person in United States history to be put to death, presents a marked departure from the otherwise mundane family-style images of the Album series. Created in 2016, Muniz’s poignant collage comes at a time of renewed concern over the extent of institutional racism in the United States. At 14 years old, Stinney was convicted of the murder of two white children in what was later deemed to be a racially-biased and unconstitutional trial in South Carolina.1 The integration of Stinney’s loaded mug shot in a series containing otherwise “normal” images of white America can be seen as distinguishing the everyday experience of black Americans as one of constant threat of legal persecution.

Active in social justice movements across the globe, Muniz has received the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum and a UNESCO nomination as a Goodwill Ambassador. His documentary Waste Land (2010) about the catadores, or collectors of recyclables, working in the largest garbage dump in the world won Best Film at the Sundance Film Festival and earned a nomination for an Academy Award.2 After completing construction on Escola Vidigal, his school of art and technology for low income youth in Rio de Janeiro, Muniz has been a featured guest speaker at the TED Conference, Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. He currently splits his time between New York and Rio de Janeiro.

– Rica Maestas
Public Human

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[1] Bever, Lindsey. “It Took 10 Minutes to Convict 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. It Took 70 Years after His Execution to Exonerate Him.” The Washington Post, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

[2] “WASTE LAND” http://www.wastelandmovie.com. Almega Projects, n.d. Web.

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This weekend, visitors to the Gallery joined artist John C Gonzalez for a sculpture workshop to participated in Installation Box, Version 4, 2016 as part of the exhibition Works well with others. Participants worked with Gonzalez to assemble new sculptures from the boxed sets of standardized materials. Completed sculptures are on display in the Gallery through June 12th.

Thank you to all the participants for joining and for sharing your work with us for the remainder of the exhibition.

 

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John meets participants of the first Installation Box workshop.

 

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John brings boxes to Lee and Devin.

 

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John works with Mary to organize components from the box.

 

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Completed sculptures on view through June 12, 2016.

 

Bacon-Leiris

Francis Bacon, Portrait of Michael Leiris, 1976
Aquatint, 11.75″ x 9.875″
Gift of Kenneth A. Cohen

 

Infamous during his life and raised to mythic proportions in death, the work of Francis Bacon (1909–1992) defined an era of British painting. He built his oeuvre using provoking, and at times unsettling imagery. Thrown out of the house at sixteen, Bacon sought out a reality all his own. While living in Paris and Berlin as a young man before he began his career as a painter, he would have been able to see the work of post-impressionists, cubists, surrealists, constructivists, and examples of the Bauhaus Movement first hand. His style was highly influenced by his exposure to Picasso during this period, and was inspired by the freedom with which Picasso abstracted the forms of the body.

It was not until the 1930s that he began to practice as an artist. Bacon worked primarily with oil on canvas and was for the most part self-taught. Bacon was known for being keenly perceptive of all that was occurring around him, and once described himself as “a pulverizing machine” in regards to the way he consumed images.[1] Pictures of his studio reveal hundreds of photographs and magazine cut outs, covering the walls and piled in corners. He approached his source imagery through a purely aesthetic lens; appropriating a pastiche of photographic representations from a variety of sources to blend with the figural representation of his sitters.

Executed in 1976, the Bell Gallery’s print of Portrait of Michel Leiris exemplifies the style Bacon developed later in his career. Where his early work is regarded as carnal and violent, the portraits he produced in the 1970s and onward display a relatively tranquil depiction of their subjects. The figures often appear on a flat, cool colored background, compared to the confining environments and the florid reds and oranges he frequently employed to surround his subjects earlier in his career. The increased stability of the images he produced at this point parallels the footing he found late in his later career while being managed by the Marlborough Gallery and exhibited internationally as the greatest British painter since J.M.W. Turner.[2]

Michel Leiris (1901–1990) was a prominent 20th-century French surrealist writer, ethnographer, poet, art critic, and a close friend of Bacon’s. During his career he sat at the nexus of many strands of French intellectualism. By the end of the1920s Leiris was a colleague of the dissident surrealist George Bataille and frequently contributed to his magazine Documents. Bacon and Leiris met frequently whenever the former visited Paris, and Leiris is credited with influencing Bacon’s worldview. In 1983 Leiris published an illustrated monograph on Bacon’s work.

In the rendering of Michel Leiris his face is recognizable through the abstraction, though it appears as if the features of two or three people have been combined with those of his own. The portrait rests on a flat dark background that encroaches on the figure, bleeding into the forms of the face. This later portrait was rendered in pastel before being reproduced as a print, as was common in Bacon’s work during the 1980s.[3] Bacon’s portraits present a hybrid of figuration and abstraction, producing a new altered reality that attempts to express the psychological condition of the sitter over traditional mimetic representation.

– Maya Code-Williams ’16

 

[1] Domino, Christophe, and Ruth Verity Sharman, Francis Bacon: Painter of a Dark Vision, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997) 57.

[2] Tate Britain, “Artist Biography: Francis Bacon 1909-1992” tate.org.uk, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/francis-bacon-682 (accessed November 21, 2015)

[3] “BACON, Francis.” Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 21, 2016, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/benezit/B00009707.

 

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We are delighted to announce that Lee Bontecou’s work Untitled 1962 has arrived and is on display at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in L.A. as part of their exhibition Revolution in the Making: Abstract art by Women, 1947-2016.

You can hear a lovely audio piece about the exhibition here: http://www.scpr.org/programs/the-frame/2016/03/11/47152/go-inside-the-arts-district-s-massive-new-hauser-w/

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