Monday, March 20, 2006

Artist of the Week (03/20/06)

Happy First Day of Spring!

When I first met New York artist
Joan Linder, she was exhibiting these moody and quirky, yet lovely, paintings of her family at a gallery on 57th Street. The series (called "118-60 Metropolitan Avenue") were psychological portraits and exhibited the humor and keen insight I associate with Joan as a person.

By the time we had our first studio visit, Joan was branching out beyond her family and making fiercly in-your-face paintings that exploded the myths of male sexual attractiveness, turning her fearless gaze onto the pot-bellies and bare buttocks of the sorts of men who, fully dressed, would assume a position of superiority in relation to Joan's small frame and gender. As she phrased it, she was attempting "to classicly objectify the male body." Here's one from the series:

Joan Linder, Snake Belly, Oil on canvas (image from artist's website).

Also, and mostly in private, she was making live-sized drawings of nude men that were incredibly unflattering. Several of the drawings resembled New York art dealers far too much to be coincidental, and she hinted that she might just do one of me (which I don't think she ever did, or at least she had the kindness to spare me the sight of it).

We included a fantastic series of photos by Joan in our first group exhibition at Plus Ultra when we opened. For the series (called "Men About Town") she took some of her life-sized emasculated figures (reinforced with foamcore), posed like odalesques or holding their penises, and placed them around typically male-associated settings, like Home Depot or fast food restaurant parking lots. I can't find any of these easily right now, but you can see a few thumbnails on this
Google page (they lead to NOT FOUND pages, but you'll get the idea).

Joan told the story of being chased out of a Toys R Us store with one of these by a manager who lectured her on the inappropriateness of her project, just to have a sales clerk confide to her on her way out that he did much worse things with the Barbie Dolls after the store was closed.

When I next caught up with Joan, she had embarked on the series that she's getting a great deal of attention for now. Represented by the awesome
Mixed Greens, Joan's new ink on paper drawings seem always to reach for some extreme or other, while maintaining that same comforting quirkiness her family paintings had that made them so warm, despite their critique. To the right is an example of one of her large pieces (Joan Linder, Red Rocket, 2001, Ink on paper, 144" x 52"; image from Boreas Gallery, via Arc Studio website). Others of trees or panoramic views of interiors or spans of electrical towers are as gorgeous as they are ambitious.

Mixed Green site (which does a wonderful job of revealing their artists' personalities) has an interview with Joan that provides a good clue into what motivates her and inspires the POV of her work:

Q: What gadget would you like invented?
[Joan]: A lie-detector lens.
The interview continues, with Joan explaining:

The drawings of men explore gender and power dynamics. The male body, sexuality, machismo, and masculine stereotypes are depicted from a female point of view. Even during figuration's recent comeback in the '90s, all I saw were images of women. Men like John Currin paint women with big tits and are labeled "bad boys," while women like Lisa Yuskavage paint women with big tits and are "bad girl" feminists. I'm not into women with big tits. I am a woman drawing and painting men with big bodies: big bellies, balls, and asses. I think about R. Crumb and wonder what he would make if he were a she.
More recently, Joan has been tying up the figures in her drawings....

Joan Linder, Trussed, 2005, Colored inks on paper, 72" x 52" (image from
Mixed Greens website)

or, more interestingly, merely suggesting the figure with the ropes themselves:

Joan Linder, Orange Rope, 2005, Colored inks on paper, 51" x 78 3/4" (image from
Mixed Greens website)

Joan currently has a solo exhibition at Rowland Contemporary in Chicago, where among other things, she's taking on the absurdities of the war...I can't imagine anyone better equipped to do so:

Joan Linder, Seven Eighty-Two, 2005, Ink on paper, 82" x 52" (image from
Mixed Greens website).


Anonymous juani flaco said...

I think joan should show the drawings of NY art dealers ;-)

3/23/2006 08:41:00 PM  

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