Figures and Faces
CURATED BY PAUL FRANK MCCABE
A McCabe Pop Up Exhibition in New York
March 4th–27th, 2020
Preview: March 3rd, 2020, 6-8PM
522 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Artists: Barry X Ball, Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Duane Hanson, Kendell Geers, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nicolas Party, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Billy Sullivan and Andy Warhol
Please see here a list of the works featured in the exhibition, including details and prices.
The paintings, photographs, collages, drawings, prints and sculptures brought together in “Figures and Faces” are alternately beatific, grotesque, primitive, refined, famous and ordinary. Representing a cross-section of contemporary figurative art, this exhibition features roughly a dozen works by a multinational and multigenerational group of artists ranging from twentieth century masters such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat to rising art stars like Nicolas Party. With a scope as wide ranging as the human subjects it showcases, this exhibition highlights a common compulsion to represent the physical and psychological wonders of humanity.
Populating the gallery with an intriguing cast of characters, “Figures and Faces” sets the stage for debates about style, content, context and critique in figurative art. Considered individually, works like Warhol’s high-contrast silkscreen of film legend Marilyn Monroe (One Red Marilyn (Reversal), 1979-1986), Duane Hanson’s life-size hyper-realistic sculpture of an average woman (Kim, 1994), Kendell Geers’s found wooden sculpture mummy-wrapped in tape (Twilight of the Idols 1720, 2016), Laurie Simmons’s photograph of a life-size custom-ordered “love doll” (The Love Doll / Day 29 (Nude with Dog), 2011) and Barry X Ball’s veiled bust carved from translucent white onyx (Purity, 2008-2017) are aesthetically incongruous. Shown together, however, these contrasting artworks become fodder for a holistic discussion about idolatry. The juxtaposition of these works raises important questions about beauty ideals, religious worship, cultural appropriation, mass media, sexuality, and modesty in contemporary portraiture.
Elsewhere in the exhibition, stylistically clashing paintings and drawings evoke a wide array of expressions (and are sure to elicit equally diverse emotional responses.) The blue-eyed woman in Party’s pastel (Pink Portrait, 2008) appears saintly and ethereal, while Georg Baselitz’s signature upside-down figure (Sechs Schone, Vier Hässliche Porträts: Hässliches Porträt 1, 1987) is rage and fear incarnate complete with a gaping mouth and blood-red eyes. Alternatively, Billy Sullivan’s Rachel, 2010, represents a private moment from the artist’s personal life. The reclined model in this painted snapshot manages to feel both familiar and mysterious.
Diversity within the important subgenre of self-portraiture is briefly explored with photographs by Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe shown in the company of mixed media works by Basquiat. Whereas Sherman masterfully assumes otherness (and thus thwarts the conventions of self-portraiture) in Untitled Film Still #83, 1990, and Untitled, 2016-2018, Mapplethorpe greats the viewer alongside one of his favorite models looking as confident and cool as a rock-star (Lisa Lyon and Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982.) Basquiat’s work, meanwhile, represents a self-conscious introspective view. His intuitive naive-style drawings and collages (Untitled, 1982, and Untitled (Nitrogen Oxygen), 1980–85) visualize the artist’s own tormented psyche.
Presenting but a small sample of recent representations of humanity, “Figures and Faces” underscores the relevance—urgency even—of portraiture in the twenty-first century. Collectively, the works presented here are meant to create a foil to the daily barrage of news-media images and social network feeds that endanger our sense of individuality and reduce the rich and diverse human condition to pixels and mimes.
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