Games are often used as metaphors for life. Whether recreation or competition, they condition players to enjoy the buzz and endure the struggle, to brave the painful upset of loss and savor the short-lived exhilaration of winning. Captivated by this rise and fall, Brooklyn-based artist Luke O’Halloran is interested in the sport and symbols of risk, chance, and possibility. From infinitely spinning slot machines to flurries of playing cards thrown into the air, his work often freezes fleeting moments in a blur of movement. But there are quieter examples too. Featured here, O’Halloran’s pencil-drawn portraits show scenes of friends building houses of cards, each filled with a sense of mounting tension that signifies the fragility of life.
“It is impossible to pose them, and I don’t interrupt or ask for a pause,” O’Halloran explains. He doesn’t stage the scenes either. Instead, he spreads a deck of cards out on a table and lets the sitter begin building while he snaps reference photos. In these tableaux, the subjects seem suspended in trance-like superposition, imagining a range of possibilities as they delicately select placements. Focus and finesse are key, and commitment to each moment must be unwavering, or the cards will fall. Once translated into drawings, the resulting portraits are gracefully understated. Each balances an economy of careful lines with tight details scrupulously inscribed through spare hatch marks, exacting the defining features and gestures of each participant with a pared-down complexity.
“Liz & Kenny building a house of cards” (2022). …
While their spectral iridescence is reminiscent of gasoline splashed on pavement or the psychedelic images made by infrared cameras, Caitlin Cherry’s recent paintings are actually inspired by a phenomenon of glitching LCD screens. A few years ago, Cherry noticed that when looking from the side, at a slant, the colors on her laptop screen would begin to invert, a process better known to photographers as solarization. Depending on the adjusted level of color distortion, a figure with brown skin appearing a shade of deep orangey bronze might flip, changing to the hue most its opposite on the color wheel, an alienoid blue. Translating pixels into paint, Cherry experimented with imitating this inversion, developing the signature kaleidoscopic style that characterizes her portraits of Black women, many of them luminaries like Cardi B. and Dominique Jackson. The effect is a visual dissonance, the chaotic layering of multiple disagreeing lenses, offering an expressionistic line up of pop culture provocateurs who have helped redefine femininity and the limits of self-transformation. “Black women have never sat comfortably in an idea of what female-ness is,” the Richmond-based artist asserts, “Even if they don’t realize, they are playing by a set of queer politics.”
Cherry often pulls her source material from the latest movies, TV, music videos, award shows, and social media. “I’m frantically archiving because the pace of culture has sped up,” she laughs, “the overturn is quicker than it used to be.” She is interested in the noise of niche celebrity culture — fleeting, marginal fame, people becoming commodities, perpetual social performance — how tech trends seem to be establishing a broad landscape of new role models, resulting in a less streamlined sense of normal or natural. …
In the heart of England is Corby, an old steel town, which painter Ryan Driscoll calls “the epitome of the color gray.” Since childhood, Driscoll was forced into the dutiful British pleasure of reading Shakespeare, and despite his dyslexia, fell in love with the stories. Occasional trips to the National Gallery in London inspired his tendency toward the mythological melodrama and old-school flare of the museum’s massive allegorical oil paintings, and when at home, he grew up watching old Hollywood films. “I’ve probably seen Cleopatra about ten times through,” he admits. Modeling for his own paintings, Driscoll has become something of a performer, assuming a range of characters — monsters, witches, warriors, queens, fairies, deities. It’s fantasy through a queer lens, somehow sweet but also dry, outrageous and campy at the same time as it’s gentle and unrelentingly romantic. Cindy Sherman meets William Blake, Michael Powell meets Max Ernst, Bronzino meets Joseph Campbell — Driscoll offers his own spin on traditional iterations of the hero and villain, becoming a shape-shifter for an assembly of elegantly surreal dramatizations.
Mostly working in oil and watercolor, Driscoll is largely self-taught, his pseudo-Mannerist style highly informed by observation. “No one else uses the technique I use, and they probably shouldn’t,” he laughs. “I’ve got a feeling it’s not economically or logistically sound.” Only a few of his friends are artists, and he feels mostly on the outside of the current vogue of figurative painting in the art world. He spends most of his time painting and sees social media as a way to get eyes on his work. …
The multimedia exhibition featuring fantastical costumes by the artist and performer will be on view through february 19, 2023.
A catalogue celebration with music by Silvia Prada and Sunzhique at 99 Scott Studio in Brooklyn, NY.
Strong yet sensitive, sumptuous yet severe — the women rendered in Ana Benaroya’s paintings flex and fume in striking color.
Semi-surrealistic and with generous amounts of camp, the New Jersey-based artist’s tableaux feature herculean figures posing and smooching, smoking and drinking. Maybe they’re Titans or Amazons, perhaps genetically-modified humanoids of the future — aliens hailing from a vibrant lesbian planet.
Ana Benaroya grew up collecting baseball cards and action figures of strapping superheroes, and she saw herself in charismatic macho characters like Indiana Jones and James Bond. She also became obsessed with anatomy books, learning the body’s muscles. This knowledge allows her to push past mortal limits in her representations of the figure, adding and stacking bulging muscle definition to maximal, and often impossible, articulation.
In her latest exhibition of paintings at Morgan Presents in the Lower East Side, a two-artist show titled The Muse’s Gaze, Ana’s canvases have been worked in layers: first she uses a base of spray paint, then adds acrylics, and she finishes them off with oils. Her sense of color is on full display — neons and jewel-tones blend and glow to dazzling effect. The women in these paintings tower over audiences, claiming territory as their long hair billows in the wind. In spirit, they may act as imperfect goddesses — ultimately powerful and alluring, but passionate to a fault — moments of total synchronization and indulgent harmony paired with episodes of crippling jealousy and cruel heartbreak. Ana’s vision flips gendered archetypes, and by putting the brutish femme center stage, a new brand of hero is championed.
Ana Benaroya photographed in her studio, Jersey City, New Jersey. …
The scene in artist Sal Salandra’s Say Your Prayers (2020), one of his distinctive “thread paintings,” shows an orgy at the altar. Instead of priests enrobed in their vestments celebrating communion, bare-assed leathermen offer their meaty erections to kneeling submissives. A remarkably hunky Christ, also naked, hangs on the cross above the congregation, perhaps inviting unorthodox forms of worship.
Earlier this year, Say Your Prayers was included alongside 13 of Salandra’s other recent needlepoint works in Iron Halo at Club Rhubarb, a by-appointment-only gallery owned and operated by artist Tony Cox in New York’s Chinatown. Although Salandra has been stitching figurative works since the 1980s, Iron Halo was the first solo exhibition by the 75-year-old self-taught artist.
In September, Salandra spoke with me over the phone about growing up as a devout Catholic and second-generation Italian American, the liberation he found in the world of BDSM, and how he pushes the traditions and techniques of needlepoint beyond the medium’s conventional boundaries.
“Teachings Of The Devil” (2019).
“Say Your Prayers” (2020).
“Ill Beat You Whip You Love You” (2020).
“Rape Of Robin” (2021).
Can you speak a little about your experiences growing up? Were you always interested in art? I grew up in New Jersey and was raised in a very traditional family. My own immediate family was six children, three brothers and three sisters. It was a big family full of fun. There was always someone to talk to — lots of drama in an Italian family. …
In Jenna Gribbon’s paintings, life is about the intimacy of a moment, and art is about the presentation of a memory. Her pseudo-voyeuristic framing is intentional — she invites viewers “to look at their looking,” to be self-conscious of their position and feel a mix of intrigue and intrusion. Jenna explains this is what she likes about figuration, “it doesn’t just blend in. It doesn’t just sit back and behave.” Her uncontained subjects — a pair of women wrestling in the forest or a topless artist posing in her studio — are only as sexually-charged as a viewer might experience them. Accessible through layers of meaning, they conspicuously conceal more than they reveal.
Working from photographs and her own imagination, based out of her Brooklyn studio, Jenna makes textural portraits that lushly abstract personal scenes. With variegations of oil, juicy flourishes and thick patches, she renders a moment gesturally, rather than mapping it with drawn lines. She often plays with light in her paintings, manipulating the mood by casting figures in varied brightness. Her sense of color is informed by her surroundings, with perhaps the exception of hot pink nipples — always the same light, bright hue, nearly fluorescent. The pleasure of her process is evident, mirroring the affection she has for her subjects.
Jenna’s most recent exhibition Uscapes at Fredericks & Freiser in New York features a series of portraits of her rockstar fiancé Mackenzie Scott, a singer and guitarist who performs as TORRES. An obsessive devotion pervades the show as it feels evident Jenna spent much of her time during the pandemic’s lockdown reverently stalking her lover, fondly watching and translating her nuances into oil paint. …