Clare Woods: I Blame Nature | Coco Young: Passage
2050 Imperial St. Los Angeles, CA 90021
Saturday, May 4 at 5:00 PM 7:00 PM
Ends Jun 8, 2024
Night Gallery is thrilled to present I Blame Nature, an exhibition of paintings by Clare Woods. This is the artist’s second solo presentation with the gallery. It follows After Limbo—her debut solo show in Los Angeles—and her participation in the group show Shrubs (both 2022). Time is a central concern throughout I Blame Nature. Flowers droop, the face sags, a cat appears in either temporary or permanent rest. Even a cherry dessert, decorated couch, and pair of faces appear composed of geological strata. Our adventures on earth, and those of the plants and ecologies we know, are comparatively brief. Yet with an air of Magritte, the surreal title painting depicts a mirrored image of a timeless scene—clouds floating across the sky. As Woods commingles the ephemeral and eternal, she asks larger questions about her medium’s relationship to preservation and loss. The artist works from a studio in rural England, where the vicissitudes of weather and landscape are ever-present concerns. Her process begins long before she applies paint. For three decades, Woods has amassed a trove of images from disparate media sources and her own photography. She selects a handful for each show, then creates simple line drawings that remove most of their information. Woods applies these drawings to aluminum panels, which she lays flat on trestles. Then she begins to paint: wet into wet, one section at a time, with an improvisational approach to color and form. Woods cannot see her full composition as she works—she makes do with what’s immediately in front of her. Much of her color mixing happens on the panel, as the artist pulls color through from one section to the next. Though she paints a single layer, the aluminum allows her brushstrokes to retain their texture and volume. Three large-scale paintings anchor I Blame Nature. The Long Arm (2023) features a gridded trellis entwined with white flowers. Its own arms appear to extend infinitely beyond the bounds of Woods’ composition. In Retreat from Glory (2023), a luminous chandelier hangs in the center of a dark wood backdrop. Time Slip (2024), the final painting Woods made for the show, depicts sunset clouds floating horizontally above deep blue terrain. The artist treats this landscape with the vertical cropping traditional to portraiture. Up close, each of these works dissolve into abstract tangles of color that record the artist’s dynamic movements. Woods honors her aesthetic heroes in the exhibition’s dual portraits. Al takes inspiration from an image of Alice Neel, Lou from a late-aughts portrait of Louise Bourgeois (both 2023). Woods is obsessed with these women’s works and lives: the hardships they endured and the trajectories of their own aesthetics. After three decades of painting, Woods feels she’s only at the beginning. Time keeps passing, and there’s still so much work to do. Clare Woods (b. 1972, Southampton, United Kingdom) was elected a Royal Academician in 2022. She has presented solo shows at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, United Kingdom; Martin Asbæk Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark; Cristea Roberts Gallery, London, United Kingdom; and Buchmann Galerie, Berlin, Germany. In March 2022, Woods mounted a solo exhibition at The Serlachius Museums, Mänttä, Finland. She has had recent institutional solo exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, United Kingdom; Mead Gallery, University of Worcester, United Kingdom; Dundee Contemporary Art, United Kingdom; Harewood House, Yorkshire, United Kingdom; Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton, United Kingdom; and Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, United Kingdom. Group exhibitions include Fernweh Space, Beijing, China; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Wales; ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; Tate St. Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom; and Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, NY. A monograph on Woods entitled Strange Meetings was published in 2016 by Art / Books, London, and her work has been featured in Artforum, Frontrunner, Studio International, The Art Newspaper, Frieze, The Independent, and FT Magazine. Her work belongs in permanent collections of The Hepworth Wakefield, United Kingdom; National Museum, Cardiff, Wales; and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, among many others. Woods lives and works in Hereford, United Kingdom. Above: English Bill, 2023 - Night Gallery is thrilled to present Passage, an exhibition of new paintings by Coco Young. This is the artist’s debut solo presentation with the gallery, following her inclusion in our 2023 presentation at The Armory Show, New York, NY and our 2022 group show And Now at Night. In her feature film from 1965, Le Bonheur [Happiness], Agnès Varda relates a banal situation of adultery in the form of a naturalistic social drama. With a bright palette and images of summer dresses and flower fields, she depicts everyday life and perpetual dissatisfaction with a sense of impressionist enchantment. Le Bonheur conveys an accumulation of impressions, suggesting the visual inspiration of Renoir or Manet. The shades are vibrant, the fades adorned with red and yellow as if to signify that color is here not just as an ornament but also as a vector of meaning. In Coco Young’s oil paintings, multiple layers seem to hide a similar, apparent romanticism and beating drama. The artist punctuates her lush surfaces with a symbolist approach and escapist dreaminess. The exhibition title itself, Passage, seems to refer to a possible transition from one world to another: childhood to adolescence, life to death. Born in New York City, Young grew up in the south of France, in the picturesque city of Marseille. She spent her childhood in Vallon des Auffes, a neighborhood that resembled a small fishermen village, and among the Provence and Camargue landscapes that inspired impressionist painters such as Cézanne, Monet, and Van Gogh. Young draws upon these mystical, timeless environments in her work. She appropriates landscape and architectural elements such as fields, flowers, and Roman Mediterranean aqueducts as she converts masculine, Impressionist art histories with a more emotional approach. A significant aspect of her latest series is the striking contrast between her apparently romantic, pastoral landscapes and The Pond, a suddenly violent, if not bloody, representation of red swans. Inspired by Edgar Degas’ Young Woman with Ibis (1857-58) and based on sketches the artist made in Central Park, the work echoes French gardens and brings a sudden, furious twist to the quiet scenery. The Messenger, another profound depiction, embodies a purple bird with a technique recalling Japanese woodblock prints, with a format echoing a panel from a Japanese folding screen. Here again, the tone is more somber; the strange bird may be a bad omen. Storms, winds, and tormented swells are at the core of Young’s carefully arranged ensemble of works. Rivers and swamps are lined with red poppies and yellow daffodils, evoking the vegetation beneath the body of Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-2) and its attendant melancholy. Young’s paintings reflect on loss, love, and absence as they yearn towards a purity and childhood that are forever lost. “The memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years,” writes Marcel Proust in the last lines of his seminal novel Swann’s Way (1913) as he captures the creative, human desire to stop the ruthless river of time. —Martha Kirszenbaum Coco Young (b. 1989 New York, NY) has had solo exhibitions at And Now, Dallas, TX; Tennis Elbow at the Journal Gallery, New York, NY; and Interstate Projects, Brooklyn, NY. She has participated in group shows at James Cohan, New York, NY; Chapter NY, New York, NY; Lomex, New York, NY; Jack Hanley Gallery, New York, NY; Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and The Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, TX, among others. Above: Bog at Dawn, 2024
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