May 11 – May 17, 2015
Opening reception: Tuesday, May 12, 6 - 9 PM
7 Dunham is pleased to present People who need People, a group exhibition curated by Beatrice Shen featuring works by Montana Azuelos, Anonda Bell, Tatiana Berg, Nathaniel Donnett, Charlie Masson, Julia Medynska and Wei Xiaoguang opening Tuesday May 12, 2015 from 6 – 9 PM.
The exhibition reflects on the transient nature of modern interaction and reasserts human presence that is often lost in the day to day. Each artist confronts markers of identity and consciousness through their individualistic styles. The focus on humanity and connectivity is reinforced through each artists’ hand. The culmination of the works offer unique and authentic dimensions to experiential and imaginative narratives.
Anonymous yet familiar denizens of the daily urban commute are captured in Montana Azuelos’ subway drawing series. Fleeting faces, stiff postures, crumpled clothing come together to form an unlikely alliance between strangers. Azuelos captures the essence of and sheds insight on human psychology. Her deliberate ink strokes inject personality into an otherwise banal transit.
Media Mothers is an ongoing investigation of how maternal figures are represented through various means of mass media; be it through mug shots, selfies, or general print and online stories. Anonda Bell points out the discrepancies between idealized portrayals of motherhood disseminated in advertisements with real life narratives. The stories told vary from heroic to shameful acts all challenging the prevailing beliefs of expected maternal behavior. Bell’s paintings are reminiscent of paper cut silhouettes and explore the theory of physiognomy, the act of judging personality or temperament through facial features. Each face is accompanied with a unique story that expands upon the definition of each and every mother.
Following the tradition of abstract painting, Tatiana Berg reinvigorates the presence of the figure. Berg’s vibrant and gestural brushstrokes create seemingly recognizable human forms. Rather than basing each work on a specific being, Berg pulls out a persona as she paints and in the process reveals the final characters. “I feel like I’m learning about the people as I go. I’m listening, and they tell me things about themselves as I make them.”* The performative and engaging process on the canvas translates into fresh and expressive results. Instantaneous recognition is organic in the familiarity of certain human features.
Nathaniel Donnett’s paper bag drawings are a part of the artist’s Dark Imaginarence practice and are unapologetic in pointing out the discrepancies and failures in today’s culture and race relations. The paper bag choice of medium references the history of using its light color as a benchmark of exclusivity in a universal hierarchical value system. The bag’s formal purpose as a vessel invokes individual memory and its influence on the current and future “self”. The backdrop of multiple question bubbles found on standardized tests questions our education systems and exam testing methods that cater to a privileged demographic. Donnett draws bounds of curly and black strands of hair, paying homage to African American hair traditions, while questioning the psychological impact of shared and marginalized human experiences and histories.
The phenomena and cognizance of self-created online personas are the focus of Charlie Masson’s Avatar series. The artist immortalizes his friends’ intangible virtual profile pictures as intimate portrait keepsakes. Self-expression and the addictive quality of modern day voyeurism are encouraged through social media. The pleasure of creating a virtual “reality” while looking into another’s life has become accepted as the norm. Strangers become peers, and the psychological distance is shortened although what is felt may stray from reality. Masson brings to light the implications of the lack of physical contact or palpable relationships. He follows the age-old practice of painting to effectively communicate the present. Purposefully using oil as the medium to present this series, Masson reinvigorates still life using social media as the new live model. In stark contrast to how easy and quick it is to upload a photo onto the internet, Masson’s painting practice is a deliberate and more reflective process.
Traces of personal history seep through Julia Medyńska’s haunting Encounters. Medynska emigrated from Poland to Germany when she was only 5. Raised by her mother and grandmother, she was forbidden to disclose or acknowledge her Polish roots in public. The artist was forced to live a dual life amongst the elite during the day then return home to her poor immigrant reality. Working off memory and photographs of her past, Medynska examines the posed pretenses in family portraits and infuses truthful psyche into the narrative. Faces are scratched out or obscured, bringing to light the psychological tensions behind each figure.
Classically trained in painting, Wei Xiaoguang’s “Photoshop realism” practice investigates the fundamental role of technique and originality in the spectrum of the art narrative, asserting that meaning derives from the entire system and not just the painting as a physical object. The role of the artist, viewer, object and subject are in continuous tension and dialogue. Wei’s painting of Klaus Biesenbach is not only an analysis of the recognizable persona, but also refers to the greater layers of digital image, story telling, social networks, and clichéd seriousness that comes with the technique of artistic realism. From afar the work appears photorealistic, but upon closer inspection the image is blurred and the brush strokes are palpable. There is a sense of understanding from recognition yet the artifice of painting complicates the truth. These oscillating realities are both valid and rupture preconceived expectations.
Keeping with the mantra of 7 Dunham’s creative mission, this exhibition seeks to foster community and insert a breath of reprieve at the juncture of New York art world’s busiest commercial week.
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