Whitehot Magazine

Love Languages: Nicole Mouriño "Mama Dukes" at PEEP

  Nicole Mouriño, Love Languages, panel 1, 2023, charcoal, polymers and oil on canvas, 79.25 x 59 inches


BY EDWARD WAISNIS April 28, 2024

PEEP (formerly Peep Projects) is a space located, together with a handful of others (including Automat and the Philadelphia branch of Tiger Strikes Asteroid), on the ground floor of the Crane building in the burgeoning Philly neighborhood of Olde Kensington, started it’s life as a literal peephole through which the viewer would take in the work. Now having expanded to a walk-in gallery, albeit resembling nothing so much as an apartment building’s hallway, or a backstage holding area.

Nicole Mouriño’s work, exhibited here under the affectionate legend “Mama Dukes”, is memorable for its refinement of detail, by which I do not mean hyper-realism, but the careful thought, and material handling, found in her paintings. Or I should say: painting, because, ostensively, there is only one painting on display, in this footprint-sized space. 

The painting is, in fact, three works of slightly varied sizes (all around seven-and-a-half by feverish feet) are titled: “Love Languages”, with the added distinction of “panel 1, 2 and 3”, respectively. Installed individually, with panels 2 and 3, with space between them on one wall and panel 1 around the corner, on its own. Putting forth their aspect as stand-alone works. The third panel is a standout, with evocations of Johns and Salle by virtue of its composition, and comes complete with a Johnsian shadow at lower left.

Nicole Mouriño, Love Languages, panel 2, 2023, charcoal, polymers and oil on canvas, 82.5 x 68.75

Mouriño creates a cosmology through her sensitivity, and harmony, in the application of mediums; a concert of charcoal, polymers (one assumes that the artist uses this term to denote water [i.e. acrylic] based pigments) and oil on canvas. Her subject in these (this) work[s] is derived from photographs of neighborhood storefronts. Zeroing in on the surface, evoking decals applied to a deli window–flat depictions of the platters and bouquets available inside–a few graffiti tags, applied with thick inky markers, to reflective glass, constituting the details she culls, and refines, from her source material.  Mouriño plumbs the culture that surrounds her on a daily basis. Her hermetic encapsulation of mundane, and fleeting, facets allows an obtuse connection to Impressionism. Particularly the commonality of devising reveries of dominant culture, with, in Mouriños case, attention on the mundane rather than couture, whereas the fin de siècle painters offer a celebration of café culture.

The beauty of the thirsty surfaces of these large canvases recalls the ‘tooth’ of the veneer of the work of Francis Bacon, as well as the default finish of the stain painters of the 50s and 60s. But, for me, there is an aspect here recalling the more diminished in scale paintings of Édouard Vuillard. Adding to these surface commonalities is the fact that is Vuillard’s ‘shop’ connection through his mothers’ seamstress career. It was in this environment that he put his attention to utilizing supports (often cardboard) and paint-stuff (casein, a common choice) at hand, much as Mouriño relies on her amalgam. Additionally, her paint handling shares something with the approach of Fairfield Porter and Lois Dodd, and even the diligence found in Warhol’s early hand-painted work, minus the cynicism of Pop.

Nicole Mouriño, MamaDukes, Installation View, PEEP, Philadelphia

“Single at Myrtle Broadway, revisited”, “Telas” and “Bleached Nails”, all 2024, the three diminutive works on paper that complete the ensemble, continue the artist’s focus on details from the same source material. A submarine sandwich–hoagie, to some–depicted in “Single at Myrtle Broadway, revisited” draws the eye. There is a eerie combination of reverent antiquity meets popular culture; something like a social media post rendered in classical medium by a classical hand, installed in artist’s frames of cast cement and museum glass that presents a confrontation with the delicacy of draftsmanship. Though efficiently crafted, these heavy frames detract from the works they harbor, offering an odd combination. Akin to an Edgar Degas drawing in a frame made by Ashley Bickerton, for example. There are precedents to this tactic in the work of Julian Schnabel and Georg Baselitz, but in those cases the robustness of the painted works encased in the contrasting artist-made frames provides a less awkward balance.

More and more we are seeing a revival of sensitivity and what I would refer to as ‘roundedness’ in painting today, harking back not only to the Nabis, as floated previously, but turning over neglected, or under-celebrated, painters and sub-movements, deserving another look, if not reassessment entirely. Mouriño, by dint of her imperturbable focus, is amongst these ranks.

Nicole Mouriño: Mama Dukes is on view at PEEP, 1400 North American Street, Philadelphia, PA, through April 13, 2024. WM

Edward Waisnis

Edward Waisnis is an artist and filmmaker. Additionally, he is the Producer of two Quay Brothers films, Through the Weeping Glass and Unmistaken Hands, as well as having overseen the facilitation of their 2012 MoMA retrospective. His writing has appeared in Art New England, COVER, ARTextreme and STROLL.

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