Portraits in Convex Mirrors / Curated by Em Rooney

September 19th – October 12th 2014

Yevgeniya Baras, Michael Berryhill, Marissa Bluestone, Xinyi Cheng, Alex Bradley Cohen, Celeste Dupuy- Spencer, Leigh Ruple & Nickolas Roudane

Rendering the human body in a painting has become increasingly complicated and many painters avoid it. The decision to give or to deprive the figure and it’s ground life or depth, affect or style reflects the idiosyncratic politics of each painter, and is as poignant an exploration today, as it was for Manet when he painted A Bar at Folies-Bergère in 1882. As long as paintings are apart of an economic and cultural network we will consider what role our corporeal form plays in the matrix. Do we picture ourselves within this network or outside of it? Where do we actually see ourselves? Portraits in Convex Mirrors is inspired, in part, by a dance piece performed at Pieter Space in Los Angeles in April 2014 titled Every Time You Are Near by Nick Duran. Nick’s dance, more reminiscent of a Martha Graham piece then of anything postmodern, reflects the drama of being alive in the absence of others—like a private exhibitionism, and because of this stands in stark contrast to more contemporary concepts about urbanity, abstraction, and alienating consumerism as they relate to our bodies, or cyborgs and the spaces, real or virtual, they inhabit. These works animate the unpopular opinion that style is too connected to patriarchy and exclusion to be the only viable means of representation anymore. Offering up the refreshing, if not optimistic, idea that bodies beside themselves are bodies in networks.

The soul establishes itself. But how far can it swim out through the eyes

And still return safely to its nest? The surface
Of the mirror being convex, the distance increases
Significantly; that is, enough to make the point
That the soul is a captive, treated humanely, kept
In suspension, unable to advance much farther
Than your look as it intercepts the picture.

But there is in that gaze a combination
Of tenderness, amusement and regret, so powerful
In its restraint that one cannot look for long.
The secret is too plain. The pity of it smarts,
Makes hot tears spurt: that the soul is not a soul,
Has no secret, is small, and it fits
Its hollow perfectly: its room, our moment of attention.

 

We see only postures of the dream,
Riders of the motion that swings the face
Into view under evening skies, with no
False disarray as proof of authenticity.

Excerpt from John Ashbery’s poem Self-Portrait in A Convex Mirror