The first Thursday in September comes like a sharp ring of an alarm clock, stirring the last dregs of summer in the city. It marks the awakening of all things culture across the Tri-state Area— as vagabond New Yorkers and visitors flock from all around the world to savor the newest in fashion, their appetite for visual art must also be met. Fashion Week kicks off and, simultaneously, sleepy galleries open their doors to sun-kissed masses— while many museums still in the process of installing their fall shows, some galleries already covered their pristine walls with the latest offerings of contemporary art.
Gagosian, which opened its first gallery in Los Angeles 1980, has become, over the past 39 years, a global mega-gallery enterprise, comprising seventeen exhibition spaces across the world. Gagosian’s 821 Park, on the Upper East Side, a two-roomed storefront space, seems modest, especially vis-a-vis their vast gallery in Chelsea. Another notable difference— it features fresh-faced artists side by side with old favorites. The roster of artists, curated by Bill Powers, include Natalie Ball, Louise Bonnet, Ginny Casey, Genieve Figgis, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Tanya Merrill, Cheikh Ndiaye, Rene Ricard, Pauline Shaw, Lucien Smith (with Glenn O’Brien), Vaughn Spann, and Chloe Wise. This line-up invites us into a constructed world, where the physically and psychologically grotesque disrupts expectations in the most satisfying way.
Enter the sunlit space—and the ambiance shifts drastically from that of the street just outside of its glass facade. The faint sounds of jazz and nostalgic, crackling audio is reminiscent of an early 2000s family living room. The sound is coming from Glenn O’Brien and Lucien Smith’s video-art piece, “A Clean Sweep”(2013). The video, which is displayed on a minuscule box monitor, features sequences of life of New York’s most quotidian spaces, while the flowery and poetic voice of O’Brien is reminiscing about life over it. The feature glides between intimate and public spaces, making one feel uncomfortable at times, but accurately depicting the systematic nature of life in New York City.
Louise Bonnet’s painting, “Interior with Pink Blanket” (2019), ambitiously occupying an entire wall, depicts a surreal bedroom. It’s effect is unsettling, making one feel like a “Peeping Tom” —raising a sense of morbid curiosity that holds our gaze over the uncanny physicality of what appears to be human bodies under the covers.
Genieve Figgis’s painting, “Ladies” (2019) contrasts Chloe Wise’s piece, “We should have each other for dinner” (2019) in both style and content. Figgis’s group portrait connects with 18th-century portraiture in pose and garments, but women depicted in her work are disfigured by the paint, melting away notions of propriety, while stirring up current issues of feminism in one’s mind. Wise’s piece, on the other hand, uses hyper-realistic methods of painting, bringing in focus specific woman within the group.
The majority of works in this show are paintings that disrupt conventional expectations through body language, which alludes to depths that are beyond what is noticeable at first glance. The lone sculpture in the show is by Natalie Ball, which brings to mind histories of Outsider Art. The tactility and height of her piece make it seem anthropomorphic and appear as a real being among the two-dimensional figures. Each and every piece creates fractured, but a wide-lensed view of human nature and domesticity that intrigues viewers and leaves them asking for more.
Domestic Horror is on view from September 5th – October 19th, 2019.