Portraits presents paintings that reinvigorate the history of portraiture, recasting the genre’s claims to truth and revelation. While maintaining the psychological charge of the sitter locking eyes with the viewer, the works integrate formal devices, including mirroring and distinct brushwork, with language and symbol; beyond biography, they allude to broader psychic landscapes. Gina Beavers culls images from the internet and social media that she renders in relief with layers of acrylic paint, transforming the digital into the painterly and and the sculptural. Her painting It's Gonna Be May (Justin Timberlake) (2019), whose title refers to a persistent internet meme about the pop star, comprises his image multiplied, fragmented, and modeled between two and three dimensions. Beavers’ transforms the limitless reproducibility of digital media into a handcrafted object, composing something material from the ether.
Srijon Chowdhury’s paintings and installations capture people and nature within a poetic world of transitory moments, repetitions, and symbolism. Recalling the portraiture of both Italian Mannerism and Otto Dix, his painting Father and Child (2019) pictures a man and baby framed by the vines of a flowering Morning Glory. While the plant forms a love heart, the painting’s subjects eye the viewer with an ambiguous self-possession, as if things may not necessarily be as they first appear.
Kenturah Davis integrates figure, design, and text to map the relationship between word and image. A Mirror of a Mirror (2019) combines, on an inked and gridded background, a double portrait rendered with stamped letters that spell out the work’s title. Moving between figurative, abstract, and linguistic modes, the works inhabits an imaginative space that is both within and without the conventions of portraiture.
Anna Glantz’s paintings combine a range of art historical styles, from Realism onward, with elements from mythic and personal narratives. Her portrait of Mike Kelley, with the late artist figured above a landscape, a stick animal, goblets, and heraldic-like lozenge shapes, among other things, is both lyrical and open-ended. It has all the oblique connections of a dream, where someone loved but lost to life reappears out of context as if they had never been away.
Keith Mayerson’s iconic landscapes and portraits seem, at once, out of time and timely. The artist’s ongoing My American Dream series presents the effects of a highly persuasive and normative American mass culture upon our personal imaginings. His Michelle, a portrait of the recent, largely beloved First Lady, has a subtle dissonance about it that, despite its subject’s broad and familiar smile, points to the inner-life behind her public persona. Paul P.’s drawings and paintings of young men apply the tonalities and style of late 19th century Aestheticism to images appropriated from pre-Aids gay erotica. With unexpected color variations and textured brushwork, the artist fuses a visual elegance with a dramatic sense of desire. His three paintings in Portraits show their subjects emerging from shadows or abstract backgrounds, their oddly familiar faces lit by shimmering colors and a wash of pronounced brushstrokes.
Anja Salonen’s paintings and installations pose the body as the protagonist in sometimes disturbing yet magical scenes about the transcendence of both the figure and the canvas. Her painting The Trance of the Plants (Michael) (2018) forms part of a series of works that centers around the idea of spiritual ascension. As her subject experiences a trance-like state, he has turned a lurid green, as if his mind has somehow transformed his body.