January 26th – February 28th, 2016
OPENING: Tuesday, January 26th from 6-9PM
Hosted by Fred Armisen
The Hole is proud to present the first New York solo show by painter Vanessa Prager. In “Voyeur”, Prager installs sixteen new paintings, some viewable only through a tiny peephole.
Prager paints dense and furry oil paintings that relish in the peaks and valleys of extruded oil paint. With multiple colors of paint on the brush she blends pigment not just in the X or Y dimensions but gravity-defyingly outward into the Z.
Her subject is the face, and her technique creates an image that hovers between figuration and abstraction in a sort of non-image. “Blooming Through the Brush” obscures features in a thicket of paint, while “High Five” resembles more a Franz Auerbach of frosting, crisscrossed with angry strokes. “Faded” is a sculpture of gestures, unblended strokes piled one on top of the other past the point of forgetting the facial armature that held them. Paintings like “Faded” really don’t have a face at all unless you want to put one in there, as in “Mandy” who, despite the proper name, looks like a crazy arrangement of warm yellow tones and some eyelashes.
One explanation of the huge volume of oil paint used in each work is that visually they look as though the female face had painted on makeup over and over and over until it became this thick slathering of gunk. Like mascara put on a thousand times over and over, strata of foundation and powder and blush, forty layers of lipstick, the faces are totally buried by the painted faces they wear, the mask is overpowering the person beneath. The inflected way the paint is applied clearly intends to tantalize, and the faces that peek in and out seem there to tease us. Even if the exhibition title hadn’t pointed us in the direction, the puckerings of paint and motif of pinks and oranges point us towards a flirtation. Perhaps the paintings are about what is hidden and what is revealed, and the anticipation or the promise of pleasure.
According to the artist these paintings came from a period where she thought a lot about privacy and how her paintings are experienced by a direct viewer or a remote and clandestine viewer. That is to say how complicit, how engaged we might be when approaching a painting, how much the artist reveals, and how that experience changes when engaging with art through digital mediation.
More people will see this exhibition through Instagram or the gallery website than in person, so how much of these high-texture paintings will get communicated through those tubes? Furthermore those who do come to the gallery and engage with the paintings in person will be held at arms-length, in areas, by the intercession of peep-hole partitions. Some of the paintings people can stick their nose in and smell the wet oil paint and gratuitously eye-grope the glossy surfaces, while other paintings are coyly concealed.
Vanessa recently exhibited “Dreamers” at Richard Heller Gallery in LA and has been in group shows at M + B Gallery, Castor Gallery and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. This is her first solo show in NYC. She has appeared in Flaunt, Elle, and most recently Interview Magazine, and you can see more of her work on her website vprager.com