Le Chic, March 3 to April 14 2018
Pop Art of the sixties and seventies specifically spoke to capitalism and the materialism of the decades following WWII. It embraced mass production while simultaneously critiquing, through eccentric and ironic means, advertising, popular culture, celebrity, and the American dream.
Le Chic takes up the standard of that movement not with a bite but a kiss — delicate, forceful, passionate, flirty, and fun. The show presents the work of seven women artists exploring Pop sensibilities through color and content in an immersive environment created by the backdrops of wallpaper and mural. JoAnne Pascall’s Galax-xy transforms a tiny, natural form into a massive photo-negative image: a galax leaf rendered in white paint. Its large scale elicits comparisons to billboards while its low-contrast silhouette perfectly answers the flower wallpaper on the opposite wall referencing the silver walls of Warhol’s Factory in soft hues of gray, taupe, and white.
Within this space, Zuzka Vaclavik’s Eau II, with its vibrantly-colored Matisse-like cut out shapes on linen, along with Carol John’s bright and deep red paintings, Lips 1 and Lips 2, truly energize the works around them. Both Vaclavik’s and John’s paintings invite the viewer to luxuriate in their electric color combinations. Hannah Tarr’s Meredith, with its heavily-patterned surface, marries portrait and still life in a wonderfully novel way. The image of a girl rendered through a simple, painted blue contour holds its own against the plaid, checks, swirls, and butterflies that interrupt and merge with her image.
Erin Vaiskauckas’s photographs, one made in collaboration with George Long, are provocative artifacts of performative works. Many shot in her own home, Vaiskauckas gives us a raw and unfiltered glimpse of a changing persona. These images, especially, remind one of Warhol’s “Screen Tests” — experimental films so fresh, edgy, and unencumbered by Hollywood’s constrictive ideas about leading ladies or leading men. The central image, Erin and George, brings to mind Roger Vadim’s Barbarella: Erin, applying lipstick, appears to float inside a mirrored spaceship.
Sharon Shapiro’s paintings consistently present loaded content of ever-changing power dynamics and sexuality. In Trophy Room, we get a glimpse of a Hollywood starlet (or trophy wife) — this time touched by brutality. The seductive lavender and melon palette offers a brilliant counterpoint to the real subject of the painting. Likewise, in Domesticated Paradise (Toy), Shapiro masterfully combines painting and photo collage to create a fantastically weird tableaux not terribly unlike Richard Hamilton’s masterwork, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? A partial photo of young woman enigmatically clothed in a black leotard with feathers lingers beside a blow-up kiddie pool, a part of her head obscured by another photo a modern house atop a hillside. Shapiro’s Loewy House, too, takes us back in time to the glory days of mid-century California houses with their requisite palm tress and swimming pools.
Justine Rubin is a great experimenter with materials and subject matter. Her mixed media collages using paper, thread, block prints, shrink film, found images, photographs, and wood show the benefits of going all out. The two large prints juxtaposing pattern, text, and oversized brushstrokes seem especially connected to Pop. Too, her small intensely colored collages combining stripes and polka dots on curiously-shaped shrink film pieces are exuberant and just plain fun — the primary objective of this show.
—Robin Bernat, March 2018