Figuration and Violence at Marlborough Gallery

Musings on Marlborough’s Upcoming Group Show

Marlborough Gallery’s show card

These four artists – Ahmed Alsoudani, Francis Bacon, Philip Guston, and Paula Rego – will open a group show on February 21st at Marlborough Gallery that illustrates the painterly articulation of violence and figuration as made manifest through processes of distortion and caricature.  Bacon and Guston are notable names on the topic, while the paintings by Rego and Alsoudani capture views of violence as seen and experienced through their own cultural contexts found in Portugal and Baghdad.

Christian Viveros-Faune refers to this suite of paintings as “long-forgotten dreams,” in a catalogue written for the exhibition and points to Werner Herzog’s cave.  However Herzog made a discovery, whereas this show does not. Instead this presentation by Marlborough lacks a clear line of history that binds everything together, leaving these paintings more topical than ever, and equal in weight to a show capturing the depiction of icebergs throughout the history of painting.

Several years ago Donald Kuspit remarked, “We don’t know what’s important anymore and can’t make distinctions.” Repeatedly in class seminars, he emphasized that this loss of focus was stunting the dialogue between both Modern and Contemporary art. Nothing new was arriving and previously-known artists still remained in the dark, beyond the scope of recognition.

This group exhibition at Marlborough Gallery affirms the stalemate permeating through contemporary culture, while propping up the work of two living artists. The painted representation of figuration and violence reaches far beyond the work that the gallery will present.  Moreover “a dialogue with the tradition of figurative painting,” is useless without any context.

If Adorno once stated that the avant-garde was a joke due to the conflation of art with spectacle, fashion and pomp then one has to look art history in the eye and break away from the long-winded phase of passive aggression, and add another discursive line to a larger historical thread.

 

 

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About Jill Conner

Jill Conner is New York Editor for Whitehot Magazine and is a Contributor to Afterimage, Art in America, ArtUS, Art Papers, Interview and Sculpture. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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