New subjectivity: Figurative painting at Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Jackie Gendel
Jackie Gendel, Archers, 2016, oil on canvas, 70 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Erden Gallery, NY, Jackie Gendel.

Contributed by Sharon Butler / In a lively group show of large canvases at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, curator Jason Stopa makes a strong case that contemporary painters, particularly those working figuratively, are cultivating a new form of Expressionism. He cites popular culture (cartoons, fashion photography, YouTube videos), personal narrative, and our embrace of online life as the driving forces behind this new direction.

Liz Markus, Celine, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches.

Gina Beavers
Gina Beavers, Smokey Eye Tutorial, 2014, acrylic and wood on canvas with artist frame, 30 x 30 inches.
Katherine Bradford
Katherine Bradford, Fear of Dawn, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 55 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist and CANADA, New York.
Jackie Gendel
Jackie Gendel, L’Age d’Or, 2016, oil on canvas 84 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.
Rose Wylie
Rose Wylie, Black Strap (Eye), 2014, oil on canvas, 72.5 x 130 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Dr. David and Jennifer Feldman, and Union Gallery, London.

Unlike previous iterations of Expressionism, such as Die Brücke in 1905, Abstract Expressionism in 1940s, Neo-Expressionism in the 1980s, this new figurative movement, led primarily by women, has a tendency toward the anti-heroic, focusing on less — less bombastic content, less exuberant paint handling, and less attention to critical discourse. Except for Katherine Bradford’s visionary images of nighttime pagan ritual and the artist in the night studio, the canvases in the show explore mediated experience – facilitated by online imagery, the robust expansion of surveillance technologies, and self-surveillance via social media.

“The New Subjectivity: Figurate. Painting Since 2000,” installation view, Pratt Manhattan Gallery.

In adopting imagery without direct reference to the objects that underlie them, the artists seem to be noting – indeed, demonstrating – the disconnected manner in which life is now lived. Fragmentation and detachment–a kind of existential abstraction– are the norm.

Katherine Bernhardt
Katherine Bernhardt, Reclining Nude, 2016, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 96 x 120 inches.

Made in-the-moment, what Stopa calls “performative,” rather than as the result of research or philosophical query, these paintings hint at narrative direction and critical perspective, but ultimately beg for an emotional response to the handling of the paint and choice of image. With Expressionism, articulating deeper meaning is optional.

A New Subjectivity: Figurative Painting after 2000,” with Katherine Bradford, Katherine Bernhardt, Gina Beavers, Jackie Gendel, Liz Markus, Rose Wylie. Curated by Jason Stopa. Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, NY. Through April 12th, 2017. Traveling to University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, August 16 – September 22, 2017; Reece Museum, Johnson City, TN, October 16 – December 15, 2017.

Related posts:
2013: Neo-Neo-Expressionism?
Hearts, Minds, and Abstract Expressionism
Catalogue essay: Robert Storr on Elena Sisto

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