Review: Gina Beavers

The Life I Deserve | by Nick Naber

Installation view at PS1. Photo by Nick Naber

I visited PS1 on a Monday afternoon. As I climbed the stairs to the third floor, my anticipation of Beavers’ work grew. It’s funny, I’ve met Gina a few times in passing, but this would be only the second time I saw her work in person. I tend to see her work through Instagram a medium which Gina is all too familiar with. 

Upon entering the first gallery you are faced with a wall of food. It’s hard to decipher what exactly it is you’re seeing. These paintings are heavily worked, through layers of paint and medium on the support. The materials are built up in a low (sometimes high) relief on the painting surface. An easy connection to make would be the work of Claes Oldenburg, but Beavers’ food is more grotesque than pop. The food references range from lettuce, beef, eggs, corn, cake, fries, hamburgers (In-N-Out the best!), and ice cream to name a few. A lot of the paintings are still life, however, many incorporate the body. Cake from 2015 is a deliciously hilarious meld of food and the body. Here the butt has been sliced, and a piece is being taken out to be served. Another blend is Corn Nails from 2019, which shows a hand with nails painted like an ear of corn while the hand holds an ear of corn. It’s uncanny to see the two together, where do the nails begin or end, same with the ear of corn?

The next gallery holds only 4 works, here Gina is referencing art history and the process of art making. It’s a tight examination in a small gallery. It could have been seen as throwaway space that you move through quickly, but it isn’t. It’s a concentrated curation and the four works shine in the space. Van Gogh’s Starry Night as Rendered in Bacon is repulsive but so damn alluring. Beavers captures the swirl of the well known Van Gogh painting through her use of painted bacon. From afar it looks like a bacon Van Gogh, on closer inspection the abstraction of the paint and modeled surface create a heavy and lush painting that we want to reach out and touch. 

Left: Van Gogh’s Starry Night as Rendered in Bacon, 2016

Right: Mona Lisa Nail, 2016

Photo by Nick Naber

The largest gallery holds some of the most humorous works. This space is all about the body, desire and emotion. It’s inside this gallery where Gina’s gaze is most evident, probably because these works have everything to do with beauty, femininity, masculinity, desire, and sex. Here we see Beavers’ playing more directly with scale in the work. Like the first gallery there is a large number of smaller works, but this gallery contains the largest of the works in the exhibition (Painter Lips, Makeup Revolution, Tag Yourself, Crotch Shots at the Getty Villa). The paintings in this room get to the heart of our cravings; great makeup, beautiful bodies, penises, vaginas, and plump lips to name a few. It’s in this gallery where Gina puts desire and humor together seamlessly. There is something about seeing these sculptural paintings and being centered wholly in the body. We’re able to see ourselves in these humorous situations. In this exhibition Beavers’ puts the magnifying glass on what it is to be human in the social media age through the archaic process of painting and with her Scorpio wit!

Gina Beavers: The Life I Deserve, is up through September 2 at MoMA PS1