Recently opened at Fred Torres Collaborations on 29th Street in Manhattan, is And She’s Not Even Pretty, a solo exhibition featuring the works of artist/musician Courtney Love. Yes, you read correctly, that Courtney Love, the famed widow of Kurt Cobain and singer songwriter, and front woman of the rock group Hole. It was the artists’ name and my own curiosity which peaked and landed me at a press preview which occurred two days before the exhibit opened to the public. Ms. Love was present and hidden in the back office of the gallery while many members of the press loomed like vultures, eagerly waiting to nibble on a piece of celebrity. She gave a few private interviews and then a group of us, including a reporter from Stereogum, were brought into the back room to talk to the artist about her painting, music and of course a few were eager to ask about her fashion choices.
I, on the other hand, was only interested in her art. That is what brought us to the gallery in the first place and that is the direction my question took. As Ms. Love began to feel a bit claustrophobic, I asked one question before her departure and it appeared to be the right one which lead to a frenetic dialogue and the two of us running around the gallery focusing on particular works on paper selected from an abundant amount of 45 drawings in the show.
Katy Diamond Hamer: “I have an art question.”
Courtney Love: “What’s your art question?”
KDH: I was wondering, because the work has a very pure immediate….
CL: Where are you from?
CL: Eyes towards the dove….that’s a great title.
KDH: Thanks. But…I’m actually wondering about your physical approach to the work and the markings that you’re making. For me, there’s this really interesting, very pure, almost teenager-like quality that I’m going to…almost like a doodle that feels really raw.
CL: Well, it starts here (gesturing towards a row of framed drawings with delicate pencil rendering) then when it gets here (motioning to another drawing with a more dominant layer of paint on the surface) I’m doing more physical things. This is my memory Mougins, France, and is the first nice paper that I bought at the same store where Picasso got all of his good paper.
Courtney Love started making her drawings, a series called Pornocracy which date from 2011-2012 as gifts to cheer up her girlfriends including, Daphne Guinness and Gwyneth Paltrow. She originally thought of the drawings as gifts but when she realized that she could communicate through this visual media, each piece took on a different role. A lyricist at heart, each drawing has text running through the work, consisting of personal poetry and memorized works by her favorites such as Keats. She sites Karen Kilimnik as an inspiration along with her best friend photographer David LaChapelle.
CL: It’s amazing. So there was the set of little girls [first made by memory of my time in Mougins, France] and then a group of additional drawings I made when in Dublin, where more of an action happened in the work and I started doing this Pollack-y shit to it, and I refer to them [the drawings] as “I’m gonna go fuck up my girls”.
KDH: I love that.
CL: So there’s one back here, I think, I looked yesterday, and I only saw the catalogue this morning, but there’s one about jealousy, and this group I made only four days ago.
The gallery features a selection of scratchy sketches of women on paper. The medium ranges from watercolor, graphite, pastel and also brightly colored acrylic. Some of the images are quite literal in their statement utilizing words like “Power”, “Real Poltik”, “She had 42 Birken Bags”, etc. But in leaning in, getting beyond the immediacy of the surface, each work is laced with a very honest, feminine vulnerability.
CL: What’s your name again?
CL: Katy, ok, come here. There’s one, that’s like, this one Katy, where’s Katy? Ok, this one is the first drawing I did where I wasn’t trying to make my friends feel good, (gesturing to a large, colorful painted piece) Mougins, Mougins, (more gesturing) then this one is based on a memory of time recently spent in London. For some reason David (LaChapelle) and Fred (Torres, gallery director) thought this piece, “Neutrono for David (Groucho Club)-That Bitch cannot be here?”, 2011, was about being in the bathroom with Daphne Guinness, and it wasn’t about that at all. But its a word that she used in the bathroom.
KDH: I love that. I was looking at this one before actually.
CL: She [Daphne] was talking to someone in the New York Times about Neutrono. It was when David had his photograph in his gallery and I was actually there to do a business course to learn about money and went to David’s thing and the night before the exhibition opened I went to this place called Groucho Club, where all those girls like Tracy Emin and Sarah Lucas hang out. I think those girls just want to be in bands.
KDH: Totally. Art rockstars!
CL: This one, “42 Birkin Bags”, April 2012, I made when I realized I wished I could set all Birkin bags on fire. Finally, to answer your question I started getting more Miro-y and physical with the work more recently as I started using larger paper. “Helga”, 2012, was just framed just yesterday and was made for David (LaChapelle) and is about his Mom (Helga). [As the intention gets more specific] the context can be hidden. I’ve started learning more and revisiting art school, focusing on formal qualities, kitsch and avant-garde, I started to make the work for myself and unlike a teenage diary it [the series] gets more formal in the references and hidden gestures.
Courtney Love: And She’s Not Even Pretty is on view at Fred Torres Collaborations, with an accompanying catalogue, until June 15th, 2012. You might not understand or like all of the work or even some of it. However, each viewer who enters the exhibition, specifically women, will be surprised at how relate-able the subject matter is. We all love, we all lose and we all have had a guy leave us for another girl who, in a deliciously catty way, isn’t even pretty. Thanks Courtney for the amazing walk through! <3
More soon. xo