The Jackson Junge Gallery is excited to present its new season of programming beginning with beauty, a special group exhibition opening on Friday, January 22, 2016 with an artist reception from 6-10PM.
Beauty is often impossible to define because of the subjective nature of judgment and taste. The idea of “beauty” once seemed synonymous with art, as it was art’s principle goal to be beautiful. However, after Modernism, beauty became an even greater subject of dispute, contention, and conflict than it was before. A politics of beauty was introduced—rival tastes ignited a controversy where the traditionalists prefer order and beauty, while the avant-garde prefers disorder and shock.
Last year the gallery challenged artists to depict and critique the perception of beauty in a contemporary context; this exhibition is the culmination of their response. There was an overwhelming reply and the exhibit could have taken many directions. But most surprisingly, the vast majority of submissions depicted a classical tale of beauty that relied upon traditional references to myth and archetype.
At this point it was evident that a trip was needed to James Mesplé’s studio: a modern day master at incorporating mythology into contemporary art. Born in the Missouri Ozarks, 1948, Mesple developed an interest in classical mythology during summers spent with his half-Osage grandfather, who shared with him many Native American tales of nature and animals. The common theme of the battle between good and evil, the “battle of the Cosmos,” inspires many of Mesple’s paintings. His work captures the spirit of Prometheus who, throughout history, has symbolized unyielding strength that resists oppression, and it reflects man’s quest to obtain spiritual enlightenment and creative freedom.
Mesplé’s sets the tone of the exhibition with his luminous narrative paintings. Employing a mixed technique of oil and egg tempera, his work evokes classical myth and imagery with contemporary flair. Beauty has never been absolute and it has taken on different aspects depending on the historical period. However, Mesplé’s work alludes to the Golden Age of Greek art, when beauty was associated with values of moderation, harmony, and symmetry. Just like a myth, his narratives offer guidance by telling tales of the obsession of beauty, the price of beauty, or even the attack on beauty.
Other artists follow suit by utilizing the long tradition of painting and story telling. Bruce Adams reinterprets the love goddess as a powerful force in the robust Mighty Aphrodite. A golden apple hangs suspended above her head, a warning of the discord that beauty can inflict. However, the artist’s model is a real person posing as the mythical figure. In dressing, undressing, and posing, the subject expresses a veiled aspect of herself and personality.
Lilla Dent explores beauty through a lens of objectification and femininity. The surrealistic concubine portrayed in Maguro asks us to question the aesthetic norms and expectations the women face in our culture. By reducing a female figure, already symbolic of prized beauty to her lower half with the addition of a beast’s head, the “maidmer,” or backwards mermaid, provokes reflection on the sexual objectification of women in general. Her work Tlazoteotl, portrays the multifaceted Aztec goddess of fertility, filth (sin and lust) and purification. By depicting the goddess in a ball gown—an object traditionally designed to makes its wearer as beautiful as possible—made of various kinds of fungi, Dent explores the dual nature of femininity while challenging the traditional definition of “beauty” itself. The Aztecs recognized that the cycles of rot, death and subsequent rebirth have their unique splendor, which is contrasted by our modern societies infatuation with anti-aging and overly perfect ideals to the point of sterilization.
beauty runs January 22, 2016 – February 28, 2016 and is curated by Gallery Director Chris Jackson, Assistant Director Scott Renfro and artist Laura Junge.
FEATURED ARTISTS: James Mesplé, Robert Tolchin, Bruce Adams, Raymond Thornton, Amalia Kouvalis, LillaDent, Stephanie Karamitsos, Kevin Connaughton, Léon 47, Francine Gourguechon