Kate Costello, Hammer Biennial second visit – Sunday, June 10

Kate Costello. Karen, 2010. Chromogenic print. 16 1/2 x 12 3/4 in. (41.9 x 32.4 cm). Courtesy the artist and Wallspace, New York.

An eager smile on a lovely young woman, this smile is on a lovely nude young woman, and she posing for a camera. I think for a moment of other posing women in recent work, nude and otherwise:

Jeanette Mundt, in her recent self titled exhibition at Michael Benevento proposed that (working from memory here) women are always posing, from girlhood on and that finally each woman becomes her own audience, as she considers her self in each situation in relation with her past as much as in the room around her. Mundt did not picture women in her paintings, rather she showed rooms that were decorated by women to act as sets for the roles they chose. The sense of the female presence was unavoidable, as in a funny way, it was impossible for me not to think of the artist considering her role. (Michael Benevento Gallery, select “exhibitions” “past” then Jeanette Mundt): http://www.beneventolosangeles.com/

Jeanette Mundt, Living Room (4) (detail), Oil on Linen, Dimensions variable, 2012. All images courtesy of the artist. (From BOMBLOG, which is linked at the close of this post)

Jeanette Mundt, an installation view at Michael Benevento from a BOMBLOG interview and from the artist.

Jeanette Mundt, Living Room (7) (detail), Oil on Linen, Dimensions variable, 2012. From BOMBLOG and from the artist.

Night Gallery, back in September showed odd nudes by an unknown artist called Jay Tucker. To me Tucker’s paintings (and their presentation by the two women who are Night Gallery) must cause problems for any reading in a strict “advantage is being taken by the male gaze” sense. Jay Tucker was a self-taught artist with an insightful grasp on zeitgeist of his day (1992 – 2005). Identity politics and late Feminism were still being played out in the universities and artist studios across the country and it must be supposed that similar active questionings were happening outside the academy, on the streets and among working people. Certainly the women in Tucker’s paintings were posing, but I feel a strength of decision in their manners. As an aging man Tucker would have been fascinated with these women – and must have been charmed by them – you can see this in his renderings. Power and freedom lie on both sides of the canvases. Andrew Berardini on Jay Tucker’s Nudies (and me on Night Gallery): http://notesonlooking.com/?p=7287

Jay Tucker, Claire And Her Shadow, alkyd and oil on canvas board, 1994 From Night Gallery Tumblr blog, which is linked below.

Victoria Gitman has for years painted and drawn women, or “Beauties” as they were depicted in art by men in past times. I understand the artist’s concern to be partly  with reclaiming these iconic images, and also to challenge the placement of craft as “women’s” work; for her hand, her ability to render is incredible – not unlike the old lace tatting that could require years to create, by women. Victoria Gitman at Daniel Weinberg Gallery: http://www.danielweinberggallery.com/artist/view/1690

Victoria Gitman, A Beauty, oil on board, 2008, courtesy Daniel Weinberg Gallery and the Broward County Cultural Division, which is linked below.

I am not as far afield as I might be. I am wondering about female roles – when and for whom they are played. Kate Costello poses models in the role(s) of an historic painter’s muse. Doubling and even trebling the capacity of a women to represent and be represented, the models portray Kiki de Montparnasse as this famous woman posed for her (male) artist friends. (If you, like me, do not know of this Kiki, Wikipedia is helpful on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Prin)

Costello places her nudes before large, fragmented abstractions. No, the abstractions themselves aren’t fragmented, instead they are large-format and bright – almost cheery – diagrammatic images such as might be painted on a poolside tile mural, or in the living room of a chic housewife in some Modernist fantasy. They are printed in bits and pieces on sheets of paper which are taped or tacked to a backdrop wall, and here is their fragmentation, or pixelation. Maybe this is a practical matter of reproducing at life size the scale of paintings from another era and maybe more is going on.

Kate Costello reproduces at heroic scale her own sketches and re-places them where old masterish paintings would otherwise be: draped around the forms of lovely young women.  Hmm. Also, she super-sizes the original works of art to accommodate humans. In the originals, the female figures were shrunk to fit in a scene of the artist’s own making, here the scene is set first by the person of the model. This is a trick of photography turned on its head and is like a slippery rock in my hands: I can’t stop trying to hold onto something that I can’t grasp. Something powerful happens and my mind jumps back and forth between the disingenuous beauty of representation and the honesty that the artist manages. Kate Costello’s photographs feel nearly sculptural and they feel very personal. When this artist objectivises her models, she calls herself out and so makes me aware of my own impersonal consideration. They seem to mock even as they celebrate the gaze of the artist, be it an old, dead, white male, the looking note-taker or Kate Costello herself.

Kate Costello at the Hammer Museum: http://www.madeinla2012.org/artist/kate-costello-2/

Kate Costello at Wallspace: http://www.wallspacegallery.com/artists.html?id=2,7

Bomblog Jeanette Mundt interview with Amanda Parmer: http://bombsite.com/articles/6573

Night Gallery on Tumblr: http://nightgalleryla.tumblr.com/

Victoria Gitman at Broward.org: http://www.broward.org/Arts/Artists/SouthFloridaCulturalConsortium/Pages/VGitman.aspx

Kate Costello. Athena, 2006. Chromogenic print. 11 x 16 1/2 in. (27.9 x 41.9 cm). Courtesy the artist and Wallspace, New York.

Kate Costello. Amy & Jennifer, 2010. Chromogenic print. 16 1/2 x 13 in. (41.9 x 33 cm). Courtesy the artist and Wallspace, New York.

Kate Costello. Sarah, 2010. Chromogenic print. 16 1/2 x 11 in. (41.9 x 27.9 cm). Courtesy the artist and Wallspace, New York.


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