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Theresa Chromati’s Olympia at Kravets Wehby

Theresa Chromati, Installation view. Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

Theresa Chromati: Running in Places and Sometimes Walking: At times I Feel Loved and Paralyzed

Kravets Wehby Gallery

May 16 - June 29, 2019

By ANNA SCOLA, May 2019

In 1865, Edouard Manet shocked the European art world by exhibiting Olympia. The naked figure lay tensely amidst crumpled sheets with a strong gaze confronting her onlooker. The painting was a rebellion against the delicate nudes that had populated western art history. Manet’s Olympia was a woman well-aware of her beauty and taking back the control that her bare skin surrender.

In her solo exhibition, Theresa Chromati presents us with a spectacle of bodies that are demanding their own authority. However, compared to Manet, Chromati exhibits a vulnerability she has personal access to, thus giving these works an autobiographical truth that is further discomforting. The dismembered body parts are dramatically enhanced: limbs and extremities are elongated and liquified as they curve around the forms while weighted, swooping breasts and inflated bottoms protrude towards the viewer. In this escalation of the feminine form comes an aggressive enactment of confidence.

High Love, My Love, 2019. Acrylic and Glitter on Canvas, 72x120''. Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

Chromati paints her figures with exuberant hues to grasp the viewer’s attention. Each work feels like an unhinged flashing light with a dizzying effect. The glitter in the swirling backgrounds syncs with the body of the space creating an ambiguity to the boundaries in the plane. As in High Love, My Love, the deformed bodies are dangled in space. The neon forms are suspended on a dark, celestial background and the swirls and curves in between the shapes create a bodily movement through the canvas.

Chromati paints these figures as if in display cases. As seen in Here We All Go (Stepping Out to Step In), it looks as though the figures are pressed against a window pane, one which exists at the surface of the frame as a safeguard for the viewer. The bodies are forcefully flattened against this barrier and still aggressively pushing themselves into it. In their postures, they are not rigidly confined but freely dancing within their spaces. The display windows sanction the bodies to parade themselves, insisting on a viewers fetish while maintaining full control over their own presence.

You Always Show Me More, 2019. Acrylic and Glitter on Canvas, 72x84''. Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

As in Monet’s Olympia, the most striking element is centralized in their piercing gaze. These alien figures possess humanized eyes that track your movement through the space. You Always Show Me More has elongated fingers pull apart a suspended eyeball, clearly painfully sore. Another eye in the painting is disinterested, tiredly looking away. One begs for attention and the other teases the viewer. In Hey I’ll Be There in 5. Can I Bring a Few Guests, a vilified smile oversees the scene below it. A viewer feels unwelcome to stare and yet is compelled to do so.

 

Prepared (She's with me), 2019. Acrylic and Glitter on Canvas, 84x60''. Courtesy Kravets Wehby Gallery

As the first and final painting of the show, the character in Prepared (She’s With Me), which is large and looming, stares down upon the viewer. There is an intense exchange between the figure in the painting and the viewer that dares to stand before it. This grotesque figure invokes an uneasy sensation that feels like a battle for control. 

Essentially, Chromati’s works are disguised in the sexualization of the female form, but what lays underneath the mask is really a search for self-assertion. Chromati’s work commands attention in a pressing time of female representation. She joins the movement for empowerment with these sensational manipulations of the female body. WM

Anna Scola

Anna Scola is an American and Russian artist, writer and curator based in Singapore and New York. As a practicing artist, Anna uses performance and installation to explore issues of identity and insecurity that arise from personal and socio-political relations to contemporary migration. As a curator, she has conceptualized and managed a number of exhibitions that create unique conditions for the artists and explore the potential of a gallery space.

 

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