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

Puppies and Flowers at the Royal: A New Artist-Run Space Explores Lustful Luxury and Mutating Community in Williamsburg

By Kristen Racaniello

 Puppies, Flowers, and Royalty. An exhibition in Williamsburg presents an ironic pseudo-salon, a flirtation with the historic Academie des Beaux-Arts, investigating the subsidiary subject matter associated with high-class leisure, surplus, and canonical art institutions. Historically marginal, decorative motifs are foregrounded in Puppies and Flowers; a transparently titled exhibition featuring paintings of floral vegetation and small, domesticated beasts.

 Puppies and Flowers is curated by artist and writer Katie Hector and features the work of Jenn Dierdorf, Dominique Fung, Delphine Hennelly, Katarina Janeckova, Tess Michalik, Aliza Morell, and Mark Zubrovich; a group of extraordinarily talented, energetic, and (mostly) Brooklyn based artists. The show runs from March 5th ­to March 31st, 2019.

This is an exhibition curated for artists, by an artist, in an artist run first-floor space. Self-aware satire, irony, awkward loves and slyly erotic forms characterize this show, but ultimately Puppies and Flowers deserves critical acclaim for its outpouring of community support and love. The Royal joins the fluxus of artist spaces in New York; its opening is a reminder that there is a continually vibrant artist underground even in the twilight of one of Williamsburgs oldest and most prolific artist-run spaces-- Sideshow Gallery, run by Richie Timperio until his unexpected death last fall.  That venue closed just last week (on March 21, 2019) joining the graveyard of countless other spaces that have closed for good in the neighborhood. With this inaugural exhibition, the Royal provides much needed new room for artists outside of the commercial gallery realm.

An exterior view of Sideshow Gallery in 2015. The space opened in the ‘90s and closed its doors in March of 2019, following the death of its vibrant owner and founder, Richard Timperio.

 The changing social organization of art patrons and institutions has necessitated artist-run spaces; Katie Hector chose to address this shift with Puppies and Flowers which playfully articulates the collapsing myth of the pipeline academy and confronts the mutating history of social interaction in the arts.

Puppies and Flowers does not look like a museum show or a group of paintings you might find in an established commercial gallery. Sensuously rubbing shoulders in subject, form, and medium, these paintings are divided; there is no one single aesthetic among the seven artists featured. Why should there be? This is an investigation of relationships: between artists, institutions, historical exhibitions and educations. Every artist and work is included because they contribute additional material to the dialogue around lust, leisure, class, craft and the decorative.

Installation view of Puppies and Flowers. From left to right: Jenn Dierdorf, October, 2016

Dominique Fung, My Dog is Anemic, 2017, Mark Zubrovich, Stick It Out and Touch Your Cleats, 2018, and Jenn Dierdorf Night Creeps, 2018.

Puppies and Flowers brings together seven talented artists and unites them through their shared subject matter, generating unexpected visual relationships. Concisely demonstrating this is a group of paintings strategically positioned to catch the eyes of unaware passerby’s through the Royal's enormous first floor window. Viewers are confronted by two central, sensual puppy paintings by Dominique Fung and Mark Zubrovich, enclosed on either side by Jenn Dierdorf’s flower paintings.

Top: Delphine Hennelly, Untitled III, 2017. Bottom: Mark Zubrovich, Stick Lick, 2018 and New Bat, 2018.

Fung and Zubrovich are perhaps closest in form out of the seven artists, but Fung’s sleek surfaces  and hard edges are still miles away from the partially post-digital, crayon fuzz of Zubrovich’s anthro-pups.  Together they form two shocking presentations of animal-human sexuality, pushing viewers to question the boundary between historically superfluous luxury goods that have lived at the margins of painting (the dog grasped in a patrons lap, or the supporting vase of a still life, for example) and the further conflation of material goods and status symbols with sexual desire.  Puppies and Flowers questions the fetish-like position of painting as an economic status symbol and further opens a dialogue around capitalism, art, power, and sex. 

The objects depicted have historically signified social class, wealth and power. In the microcosmic art ecology of the historically scrappy Williamsburg gallery scene, an exhibition that directly confronts painting’s place as a signifier of economic power is almost unimaginable.  Yet that is precisely what Puppies and Flowers does.  Playfully choosing the marginal imagery of historical painting, and displaying it within an artist-run space that is both in the margins of the commercial market, and at the center of a now historic artist district, Katie Hector has curated a thrilling new show that begins to unravel the complex network linking artist-run spaces to the larger constellation of galleries and institutions.