Curated by Joachim Pissarro
August 26 - August 31, 2019
By KRISTEN CLEVENSON, September 2019
The unexpected quartet gathered at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects resulted from a serendipitous melding of connections. And together, I don’t go by that shows that with voice, vision, and talent the most disparate practices combine in an enticing, intriguing song. Noa Ginzburg makes manifest the physicality of Talia Levitt’s expertly trompe l'oeil still life studio painting with her carefully crafted, interactive sculptural installations. Ginzburg’s vibrant pallet carries through into Natasha Wright’s heavily impastoed, energetic figure. Wright's voluptuous female echoes in Staver Klitgaard's ghostly scene and Klitgaard's figure's shock of pink hair thus completes a circle: pink hair to pink still life to pink glow lamp to pink figure.* In this exhibition, the works come to life – literally manifesting a world for themselves.
A focused show that encouraged close looking, the exhibition featured an interpretive essay by Joachim Pissarro, curator of the exhibition, and a panel with Pissarro and the artists. The programming thus carved space for dialogue to articulate and inhabit this new world. What struck me was that, though the conversation often characterized the group as female-bodied artists inserting themselves in a male-dominated history of art, the named art historical influences for these artists were predominantly male. (In fact, the alternate exhibition title was “I’ve always wanted to show with Monet"). Unapologetically Levitt, Wright, Klitgaard, and Ginzburg do pull some of the best qualities of art history to depict the now. For example, Ginzburg includes a Japanese garden readymade; Wright marries the art historical icon the Venus of Willendorf with the pop culture icon Cardi B, Talia revives genera that is often left out of modern discourse and historically depicted by women, and Klitgaard embraces myth and emotion as so many have done before. However, I didn’t see this exhibition as insertion of “femme” art into an already existing art historical canon, I saw the beginnings of writing the canon of the 21st century.
In pushing away from the desire to show with Monet and boldly declaring "I don't go by that," the four artists have reached into the canon and emerged with the power and audacity to do better and more interestingly what men have done in generations before. "I don’t go by that" meaning even though they share a “family tree” of overlapping artistic inspirations – such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Francis Bacon, and Willem de Kooning – the contemporary artists use elements of light, energy, and color that their predecessors had mastered to build on dialogues we are just now beginning to engage. Though the “grandfathers” of the show may be the same, the multitude of influences Levitt, Wright, Klitgaard, and Ginzburg continue to work among and think about–just to name a few: Judith Linhares, Artemisia Gentileschi, Catherine Murphy, Amy Sillman, and Hilma af Klint– highlight the brewing tidal wave of change; in I don’t go by that the artists embrace this transformation with an irresistible enthusiasm. WM
*Please note that pink is not per se the most important color in these artists’ palettes, but it is, in fact, my favorite color and one I am excited to highlight. I would argue green and white also play a prominent role in guiding the eye through the exhibition.