By KATELYNN MILLS, September 2018
Les Biches, a solo show of Natasha Wright paintings (all 2018), opening Wednesday, September 19 at 61 Hester Street, features a playful in-and-out, back-and-forth happening, on multiple levels. This flippancy can be observed beginning with the title of the show. It seems more than serendipitous that we’re calling these woman “Biches;” which, to an American viewer (likely unversed in any other language), reads as “bitches” — a label more suited for the seminal “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” that the artist drew inspiration from. Natasha Wright’s women are not naive to the history and male subjectivity they inherit. It’s as though each character left Picasso’s work one by one, turned the lights down, and claimed the space to discover who they are on their own terms.
The overall movement in these compositions is consistently rough and fast while individual passages are tender and slow. Wright simultaneously delivers the gestalt of experience in one fell swoop and leaves us with the specificity of touch and sensation that lingers. Queen of Hearts is a cyclone of legs and breasts; sharp, rhythmic edges that trace a sprawling leg upward to expose the subject’s soft center — the details of which have been caressed out of focus. The dense, black, vertical marks of the background push her forward while the line of the fabric, perhaps her dress or the bed sheet, draw us into her. The place the viewer falls is inevitable.
Power Woman takes on the form of a vessel. The mystery and ambiguity that the black and blue holds in this composition belongs as much to the figure as it does the ground. She carries all of that darkness, yet her nimble, pink contour suggests the power and agility to maneuver it as she pleases. This work has a strong relationship to Half Full, in which the picture plane is divided by a majority of black butting up horizontally against the white below it. Does this suggest that the void, or nothingness, represented by black is fuller than its white antithesis? Or is the white meant to suggest that it is in the process of achieving fullness — further implying that this work is in a state of becoming rather than a closed idea? In any case, Wright understands questions are always more interesting, and erotic, than answers.
Perhaps Black Angel is a sort of key to viewing this series. Another name for her could be Sweet Daemon or Mischievous Darling as she balances the complicated dichotomy that Wright is so interested in. In Nietzschean terms, she is beyond good and evil; where does the light end and the darkness begin? It flows in and out of her, drips heavy on the viewer below her. She is grotesquely beautiful, as Picasso saw her, yet transcends the captive form and solidity he once had her in with her fluidity. And that is the message that so many women, Wright included, are speaking to in milieu of women’s movements: that we are no longer, nor ever really were, such containable objects, but boundless spirits which deserve the freedom and consideration as such. WM
Katelynn Mills is a painter and Art History Professor teaching at Santa Ana College. Her writing has been featured in a number of publications such as Artcritical and Painters' Table. Mills continues to make contributions to the research of The Cybernetics of Painting, the topic of her dissertation conducted at the New York Studio School (2014-16).view all articles from this author