Saturday, October 03, 2009

More Than Feelings

["L" (2009), reinforced clay on mdf sheet on wheels. "Fascia II" (2009), bronze on painted mdf plinth in Perspex. "P-D" (2009), steel.]

Bringing together 12 new sculptures across various media, "Feelings"—Rebecca Warren’s third solo show at Matthew Marks Gallery—will be up through October 24th. Whether made with unfired clay, painted bronze, or welded steel, what emerges in this sampling of her recent work is a natural flow between abstraction and figuration. Ranging from amorphous to more recognizable forms, Warren’s work is sometimes sexual and often references the body in ways that convey whimsy and challenge.

While both playful and aggressive in depiction of female form, Warren often simultaneously invokes and skewers the work of such iconic male artists as R. Crumb, Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966), and—in her recent steel sculptures— Anthony Caro. A founder of the "underground comix" movement noted for his subversive drawings, Crumb was frequently lambasted for his depictions of women in overly sexual (and subservient) roles. (Similar criticisms have been leveled as per Crumb’s depictions of people of color.) Crumb is remembered for such characters as Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, and the "Keep on Truckin’" guy—not to mention album covers for the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company. With their overripe and pendulous breasts, vacuous eyes, and blatant sexuality, de Kooning’s paintings of women from the early 1950s caused a sensation. While some of the swirling consternation about this had to do with de Kooning’s artistic revelations in regards to women, much was also due to the figurativeness of these works (done at a time when his fellow Abstract Expressionists poured forth abstract works). And so on…

While, challenging such "conventions," Warren's work is refreshingly exhuberant—responding to and engaging playfully with this predominantly male canon without being self-conscious. With this in mind, Warren says of her work: "Though my work evolves through a process of appropriation and reference, it is nondidactic, being closer to revelation and discovery."

Such formal awareness and wide-ranging source inspiration combine in Warren’s works to create whole new entities with compelling physicality. Warren’s steel sculptures with their hard edges and seemingly precipitous balance are exhibited are a recent medium for her, and exhibited here for the first time. They seem very different from Warren’s previous work, although flourishes of delicacy remain. In toto, Warren's sculptures are brilliant celebrations.

Based in London and nominated for the Turner Prize in 2006, Warren has shown previously at the Kunsthalle (Zurich), Stedelijk (Amsterdam), Tate Gallery (London), Serpentine Gallery (London), Galerie Daniel Buchholz (Cologne), and the New Museum (New York).

Rebecca Warren: Feelings
Through October 24th, 2009
@ Matthew Marks Gallery
522 West 22nd Street, NYC 10011

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