Agathe Snow: Tout Dit (2D)
OHWOW Gallery, Los Angeles
November 10 - December 8, 2012
by Shana Nys Dambrot
Here follows a partial list of materials employed by the mad genius Agathe Snow in the execution of her new work, recently exhibited to great unrest at OHWOW’s West Hollywood gallery: Fiberglass, foam, vinyl, papier-mache, foam head, synthetic-hair wig, hubcap, googly eyes, cardboard, metal, plastic antlers, cardboard coffin, plywood, wire, tape, porcelain hand, suitcase, latex rubber pig mask, glass beads, candy-cane lights, mirror balls, canvas, metal chains, anchor, foam hearts, rain-proof pants, umbrella, climbing rope, puppet mouth, cast foam tits and ass, plastic butt, apron, enamel paint, plum tree roots, cast soft-latex Buddha, dashboard Jesus, dried starfish, bubble wrap, red Converse sneakers, vegetable peeler, 3D glasses, rubber handcuffs, and a gardening tool rotating mechanism. Paint and canvas are buried in that list, so technically that makes these paintings. But these balletic grotesqueries, these deeply unbalanced balancing acts, these emotionally raw, formally defiant explosions of gestural assemblage, these hearty Frankenstein narratives of torture and longing -- they are oh so much more than paintings.
Tout Dit (2D) is a series of corpulent wall reliefs, which aggressively project themselves off the wall and into the physical space of the room in a sculptural voice, yet remain firmly anchored to the “painting” category due to the manner of their display. This confrontation with settled spatial and art-historical law effectively calls into question the usefulness of genre-definition in the context of the modern taste for canonical boundary-blurring and formal cross-pollination. In works like “Six Feet Under,” “Crowded,” and “Up Against the Wall,” Snow explicitly takes the measure of the human body as her starting point. Other works externalize the narrative to psychosexual or other societal contexts, like when the piss is taken out of organized religion in “Comfort Bargain,”or the evils of economic injustice are lampooned in “Dollar, Dollar Bill Oink!” As one can infer from the above list of materials, this body of work is a rich vein of potential for allegorical narrative and emotional volatility; the prevalence of images associated with childhood lends a certain art-therapy vibe to the proceedings, which is underscored by the stream-of-consciousness sensibility of the messy, raw-around-the-edges, aesthetic.
By using familiar images and commonplace found objects, Snow draws the viewer much faster and further into her exploration of space and surface than pure abstraction or invented imagery could manage. These paintings -- or, if you prefer, mixed media wall reliefs -- are primarily exercises in deconstructing and reassembling the language of the picture-plane. Jay DeFeo’s beefed-up flatness, Rauschenberg Combines’ metonymies of mediums, and a fine love of arte povera all leave their marks; what Snow really wants is to reinvigorate the moribund discourse of the early 20th century, using the devil-may-care maximalism and gallows humor of the early 21st.
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Whitehot Magazine, KCET’s Artbound, Flaunt, Fabrik, Art and Cake, Artillery, Palm Springs Life, Riot Material, West Hollywood Lifestyle, Jenkem, and Porter & Sail. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and exhibition catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
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