Thursday, January 27, 2011

What are you doing Sunday?

Self Portrait with Striped Shirt, 2008
Sunday, I shall board the 1:38 from Grand Central Station to the Aldrich Museum to attend the opening reception of Jenny Dubnau's exhibition Head On. Click the link above to check out times, dates and online catalogue for the exhibition. I've known Jenny since the early 1990s; it's a pleasure to discuss painting with her in studio and gallery visits because her engagement with painting is so profound. It's also gratifying to observe her work evolve--she was always good,  but the work, though remaining in dialogue about painting and paint, invites directly transmitted experience that transcends the critical.

I'm particularly excited about these paintings as they represent a ripening maturity in her work. Starting from the above self portrait, 2008, Jenny mutes her palette, pushing the most subtle aspects of a color. She alters the internal scale of her figures for a more proportionally rewarding relationship to the space surrounding them and softens the lively dance of her brushwork to the barest flicker. The paintings are material, but atmospheric. Look at the stripes on the shirt, the edges of hair, eye and chin, or the strange double halo of head and neckline--they pulsate. The psychological self portraits from 2005, the nearly slapstick, black and white self portraits of 2006 and exquisite portraits of aging loved ones from 2007 search and give way, after a cataclysmic encounter with Velasquez' Las Meninas, to a more distanced, yet penetrating perception.

In Las Meninas, Jenny witnessed "vast circular space, through which dust motes fell," and that space offered the pivot she felt her work needed: literal room for human presence. In the double portrait below, the influence of Spanish painting is clearly felt in the atmospheric space and beautiful charcoal palette that invites the eye to roam. The figures and space share equal weight, enveloping and holding each other.
Carrie and Sheila, 2008

R. With Grey Shirt, 2009
After Spain, Jenny began to hire models. This brought a natural evolution to the Aldrich show, which includes artists, curators and others associated with the museum new to her acquaintance. The emotional space evolves a more compassionate feeling in the work. It imbues perception, in a paradoxical shift of emphasis, with the agency to negotiate the mechanics of vision through the body. This activity, encapsulated in flickering brushwork, becomes the true subject of the paintings.

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