whitehot | September 2012: Kelly Reemtsen @ Skidmore Contemporary Art
Kelly Reemtsen, Twister, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.
Kelly Reemtsen: Paper and Chalk
Skidmore Contemporary Art, Santa Monica
September 8 - October 6, 2012
Artist Kelly Reemtsen transports viewers to a simpler time. Reminiscent of television shows such as "Leave it to Beaver" and "Mad Men," her seemingly picturesque images depict iconic views of women from the 50’s and 60’s. Yet, something is awry. Many of the works contain images of a June Cleaver/Betty Draper type, perfectly coiffed in her vintage pastel party dress while clutching what appears to be a steel instrument of destruction. On a table in the middle of the gallery sits a pile of familiar, over-sized pharmaceuticals, one bearing the familiar V for Valium.
The faceless -- indeed headless -- subjects dressed in vintage 50’s garb imbue a nondescript, cookie-cutter homemaker, but her playful twist of including traditionally masculine tools enhances the duality of her work. Each of the female characters has a different tool in her hand and each of them could do some serious damage if she so desired. Perhaps they are merely going to clip the hedges.
The exhibition includes a new medium for Reemtsen: woodcut. A labor-intensive medium, a woodcut is usually created in few colors, as sketching and carving the block is a detailed, time consuming effort. However, Reemtsen tackles this new medium with a tenacious, ambitious approach using nine colors, and the results are stupendous. The colors collide with the delicate layering and bring out a saccharine sweet flavor with just a hint of sarcasm, the perfect counterpart to the weightier, more unnerving paintings.
The overall stance of Reemtsen’s characters makes a decidedly strong statement. The deliberately taut arm muscles gripping an axe, a wrench, hedge-cutters or perhaps most effectively a chainsaw, gives the impression of women on a mission. As the artist explains, “For my figures, I started 15 years ago with still lifes of vintage dresses on dress forms. The pill sculptures and paintings are more accessories for the outfit. I've always seen my paintings as strong women using any and every tool to get the job done -- sometimes that takes a chainsaw. Sometimes it takes a pill.”
Kelly Reemtsen, Splitting Hairs, 2012. Woodcut in 10 colors Edition of 10 39" x 39". Courtesy of the artist.
Kelly Reemtsen, Orange Study, 2011. Pastel on paper, 18½" x 26½". Courtesy of the artist.
Kelly Reemtsen, Wrench Study, 2012. Pastel on paper, 26½" x 30". Courtesy of the artist.
Artist Kelly Reemtsen, photo by Greg Dahl.
Kathy Leonardo has been writing about art and entertainment events for the past 13 years. She runs an event listing website, http://www.laartparty.com which features weekly art and entertainment events in the Los Angeles area. She also currently has a column in the Santa Monica Mirror entitled “Talk of the Town.” Her work has been published in/on many publications and websites such as Artslant, The Beverly Hills Courier, Campus Circle, LA Weekly, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The West Hollywood Independent and many of the AOL owned Patch sites. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org 682 587-7766.
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