Mary Anna Pomonis: In brio
Annie Wharton Los Angeles
17 November, 2011 - 6 January, 2012
Decadence in art has its precedents in the glorious Pop simplicity of Andy Warhol’s early silkscreens, and the overtly seductive glamour of Kehinde Wiley; and now Mary Anna Pomonis’ first solo exhibition in Los Angeles at Annie Wharton at the PDC, suggests a further deepening of this essential, if manufactured, human impulse. Where an artist like Wiley deliberately conflates glamour with a sociopolitical agenda, Pomonis’ paintings of diamonds and exotic jewels posit beauty as its own impenetrable conundrum -- unconquerable, yet expansive in its constant ability to seduce. Diamonds as objects of desire also lend themselves to flights of fancy and all manner of supposition, and yet they can never be fully “possessed.“ As Elizabeth Taylor once remarked, “I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine. You cannot possess radiance, you can only admire it.”
Pomonis has taken into account the complexity of the diamond as a sexual object and has even gone so far in some of her paintings as to incise the canvas itself, creating surfaces that mimic female genitalia. In “Some People Call Me the Modern Day Liz Taylor, After Jennifer Lopez,” (2011), deeply saturated pink tones and strangely dislocated geometry within the image confound examples of such discreet incisions into the canvas, yet it is their revelation, once the viewer has discovered them, that imbues this work with power. These marks operate here as moments of proof that the human body is fallible; and that indeed, a woman’s body by its very existence stands as an activated space of dislocation. Other images like the enigmatic “The Void is A Diamond Itself, After Judy Chicago” (2011, acrylic airbrush on canvas) further disrupt the two-dimensional picture plane onto which the image might be overlaid, suggesting in its place the armature of the structure itself. These fictitious stretcher bars are revealed as though giving a glimpse into the mysterious sensuality that informs the creative impulse. They stand as markers of desire -- the desire to know and understand, to delve deeper into “objectness,” and finally to expand that understanding to include the “body” of the artwork itself as a sexual signifier.
Other works in the show are much more playful, positioning opulence as a kind of signpost of human longing, while allowing that these longings might at times be shallow. In “Untitled, Chevron Burst,” (2011) for example, the image of the gemstone is highly conceptualized to become nearly unrecognizable, as the central image of the familiar Chevron insignia floats weightless in an expanse of blurry non-reality, as though big corporate business could be sucked into the void at a moment’s notice. The insignia becomes a ready stand-in for the diamond, because, after all, we are already supremely disconnected from the origins of the very coal whose turmoil and pressure over eons create the precious gems, and which is itself collected in the form of oil, by spilling blood on foreign soil where people with names we can’t begin to pronounce do our dirty work -- and leave us free-floating in the empty space that is desire’s aftermath.
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