Friday, January 29, 2016

Painter Vanessa Prager Shows at The Hole!

An exhibit I have awaited took place this past Tuesday evening as The Hole on Bowery presented "Voyeur" by painter Vanessa Prager.  In her first New York solo show Prager installed sixteen new paintings, some viewable only through a tiny peephole. The crowd was massive also awaiting the host of the hour, Fred Armisen. (Yes, that Fred from Saturday Night Live & Portlandia.)
Her subject is the face, and her technique creates an image that hovers between figuration and abstraction in a sort of non-image. One explanation of the huge volume of oil paint used in each work is that visually they look as though the female face had painted on makeup over and over and over until it became this thick slathering of gunk. Like mascara put on a thousand times over and over, strata of foundation and powder and blush, forty layers of lipstick, the faces are totally buried by the painted faces they wear, the mask is overpowering the person beneath. The inflected way the paint is applied clearly intends to tantalize, and the faces that peek in and out seem there to tease us. Even if the exhibition title hadn’t pointed us in the direction, the puckerings of paint and motif of pinks and oranges point us towards a flirtation. Perhaps the paintings are about what is hidden and what is revealed, and the anticipation or the promise of pleasure.
Instagram is everywhere. More people will see this exhibition through it on peoples feeds or the gallery website than in person, so how much of these high-texture paintings will get communicated through those tubes? Furthermore those who do come to the gallery and engage with the paintings in person will be held at arms-length, in areas, by the intercession of peep-hole partitions. Some of the paintings people can stick their nose in and smell the wet oil paint and gratuitously eye-grope the glossy surfaces, while other paintings are coyly concealed.
Vanessa Prager (left) with sister and Alex, also a hugely accomplished photographer and filmmaker.  (Side note: Alex did the photography for last years Portlandia ads.)
Gallery Director Kathy Grayson and her famous sweetheart Bert (@bertiebertthepom)
Blending in...
Vanessa recently exhibited “Dreamers” at Richard Heller Gallery in LA and has been in group shows at M + B Gallery, Castor Gallery and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. She has appeared in Flaunt, Elle and Interview Magazine. This exhibit runs through February 29, 2016.  
For more visit: and @vanessaprager.