Kathe Burkhart, Installation view from the Liz Taylor Series, 80WSE, NY
Image courtesy of the gallery and the artist, 2012

80WSE Presents is an annual invitational that allows gallery staff to invite artists of their choosing to participate in a group show. This year gallery staff including Peter Campus, Michael CohenEdward Holland and Hugh O’Rourke brought a selected group of eight artists to the Washington Square gallery. Rather than focus on an obvious, established theme, the curators chose to assemble their choices and in doing so arrive at what may or may not be perceived as a conceptual narrative thread. Upon entering the newly refurbished gallery, the first works to greet viewers are the large, flamboyant paintings of Elizabeth Taylor by artist Kathe Burkhart. The paintings fill the room and silently shout words such as Slut, Cougar, and Junkie written directly onto each canvas, sitting atop images of the luscious Liz, sharp in wit and tongue. Burkhart has been making paintings of Liz Taylor for many years and she focuses on the proclamation of female agency, the declaration of labels, hurtful rather than constructive and in doing so broadcasts ownership. In reclaiming the garish terminology by use of paint on canvas, the dialogue opens rather than closes as one can focus not only on the surface based words but rather delve deeper into the visual landscape of the painting or the violet tinted eyes of its starry subject.

Jamie Bruce Dearing (left) Cabinette, Mixed media, 2012 and Susanna Howe (right), two color c-prints
Image courtesy of the gallery and the respective artists, 2012
George Wilson, Intersecting Loops on Surfaces and String
Wax, beeswax, urethane, silicone, wood, steel, plaster
and paper collage on linen, 2012
Image courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Interior and exterior space is a loose thread that the press release states as a binding commonality between the works featured in the exhibition. It is in the interior space where we spend most of our time, however the exterior space is imposed upon and filtered into by way of active emotional, or the negation of emotional, experience.  This being said, it makes sense that in the room next to Burkhart’s paintings is a large, wax couch by artist George Wilson. Wilson made a very labor intensive sculpture, that is the perfect reproduction of a couch. At first glance the object appears “real” and made of artificial leather, the type that would stick to your legs on a warm, summer day. However, in it’s dissected form it channels Paul Thek, and the waxy interior, muscle cross-section of Hippopotamus Poison from 1965. The artist describes the work as an inanimate post-coital transition. In granting a dissected object the position of human resonance the sculpture can become either poignant or violent. It feels like a disregarded domestic situation or a frozen moment of spatial rejection yet elevated on a pedestal and therefore a memorial of sorts.

Nadja Marcin, Image from No Country, Color c-print, 2009
Image courtesy of the gallery and the artist

Another contributor who is loosely gesturing towards interior and exterior terrain but with both poignancy and humor is German artist Nadja Marcin. Marcin is based in New York and makes performance based video, photographs and installation. She has participated in numerous exhibitions and just recently returned to New York after spending most of autumn in Europe. Marcin has three works in the group show; two videos and a series of four photographs. In each work she uses her body to interact with an environment or another human form in order to complete a specific thought. In four printed photographs from the 2009 series No Country, the artist feigns sexual intercourse with various men and poses. An idealized sunny beach is used as a cloth backdrop complete with wrinkles. In each shot the artist chooses to not reveal any evident emotion and instead assumes a position that appears rather aloof. The subdued yet important detail in the photographs is the representation of a country by it’s flag, found in the order of color in the participants clothing. Here the countries presented include, Kenya, Japan, Germany (seen above) and France. Each male subject is different and as a viewer we are unaware if the participants are actually from the country that is depicted or if they are actors playing a role. The works come off as both random and specific and it is in not only the body posturing but the distinct sense of sameness in solitude and isolation that makes the series stand out. The position changes, the act stays the same. The frames segregate each photograph while the artist is consistent as is the background but they otherwise do not overlap or intersect. Marcin is both dominated and dominate. No Country allows the viewer to contemplate, most simplistically, the visual representation of sex and on a deeper level immigration, migration and diaspora.

80WSE Presents: Annual Group Show is on view until December 22nd, 2012. Artists include: Kathe Burkhart, Jamie Bruce Dearing, Michael DeLucia, Susanna Howe, Nadja Marcin, George Wilson and Adam Winner.

More soon.