Art : Concept is happy to present the 4th solo show by Whitney Bedford – American artist based in Los Angeles – featuring a new series of landscapes painted in oil and ink on wood panels.
Often described as autobiographic, Whitney Bedford’s work can be compared to the chapters of a diary, newly opened by the irruption of an event, either joyful or painful, in the life of the artist. The theme of the shipwreck makes its first appearance in 2003, after a saddening break-up. On the opposite, in 2013 it is the firework - as symbol of an explosion of joy and passionate love - that pervades the Love Letters series.
Nevertheless, the artist’s private life is more of a starting point, a source of inspiration among many others, and the outcome is never anecdotal. While overcoming the (vain?) attempt to reach a kind of creativity that is entirely freed from personal experience, Whitney Bedford’s canvases largely overflow the frames of individuality.
They summon a fantasized and unattainable golden age, a mythical place where everything seemed still possible. The theme of paradise lost, previously explored in the 2008 Arcadia exhibition at Art : Concept and then again in West of Eden at Susanne Vielmetter in 2015, is extensively investigated in its darkest aspects. At first glance, the observer enjoys the pleasing, radiant and vividly colored landscapes haunted by cactuses, palms and other vegetation. No doubts on their country of origin. The Californian feel is palpable.
Nevertheless, Whitney Bedford’s figures, outlined in ink with an extreme precision (almost like photographs, but in negatives), seem to be violently ripped off their monochrome, sleek, sunburned horizon to become unsettling shadows. So are the titles: Good do Bad, The Rattler. The plants form a barrier. They create a sort of insurmountable border that divides two worlds: calmness and chaos, peace and trouble, beauty – as the source of joy and relief – and sublime – as the source of an overwhelming emotion close to terror, quoting Edmund Burke’s definition. The forests created by Max Ernst between 1927 and 1928 are not far away: absence of perspective, frontal presence of the vegetal drawings, suspended temporality. Both Bedford’s and Ernst’s forests are drawn by the common ambition to represent a parallel reality, mysterious and ambivalent, perhaps that « surreality » so dear to André Breton.
Transposed in Los Angeles after more than a century, Whitney Bedford’s «forests» or jungles have something artificial in them. They stand for their own absence of volume; they don’t try to create any illusion around their bi-dimensionality. Like set sceneries or advertising billboards rising in the middle of nowhere, they impudently display the shadows of this La-la-land.