Over the last decade, 2017–18 Gabriela and Ramiro Garza Distinguished Artist in Residence Cheryl Donegan has made paintings that are as irreverent and subversive as her widely acclaimed political, feminist approaches to video. Similar in content to the performative work she created in the 1990s—which, today, is included in standard art history textbooks—her painterly practice is infused with an ironic eroticism, often time-based, and pointedly references the male-dominated history of Abstract Expressionism and action painting. Donegan’s newest highly conceptual painted and printed works continue her investigations into mark-making, beauty, seduction, fashion, and the nature of art making.
Magnifying her process, Donegan’s abstract paintings highlight the studio as a space for discovery and experimentation as well as its relationship to the vivid streets of New York City. Her recent paintings—gleaned from debased images of consumer objects, shopping spaces, and humble patterns—employ digital appropriation and reveal her playful, yet deceivingly serious manner. For instance, Donegan has taken cell phone snapshots of the ubiquitous graffiti made by teens that have scratched their tags into the collapsible grills of air-conditioner units. The resulting motif, both cosmic and quotidian, forms the basis of a new collection of garments, which will be on display in the Galleries as well as presented in a fashion show. These images, when printed on fabric and animated by models, bring out both the street beauty and art-historical resonances of this mark-making practice.
The Aspen Art Museum’s presentation of Cheryl Donegan’s GRLZ + VEILS, co-organized with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, marks the artist’s first US museum presentation solely devoted to painting. The show features roughly forty pieces—a highly curated selection of her work, augmented by unstretched hanging printed fabrics that Donegan has designed, as well as mannequins featuring a new collection of clothing by the artist. The presentation at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston will be extended with a selection of six of the artist’s videos from the last decade.