Bridget Mullen: Trojan Horses | Charles Snowden: Stray Animals
616 N. La Brea Los Angeles, CA 90036
Saturday, June 8 at 6:00 PM 8:00 PM
Ends Jul 13, 2024
Nazarian / Curcio is pleased to present Trojan Horses, a group of seven new paintings by New York-based Bridget Mullen. This will be the artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery and the first major body of work in which she has used oil, rather than Flashe or acrylic, as her primary medium. In a text written specifically about these new works Mullen states: The paintings in Trojan Horses expand on my proclivity for pitting figuration against abstraction and take formal clarity to new degrees. Like previous bodies of work, these paintings maintain a position of bipolarity: figures’ moods waver between exhausted and exalted, nefarious and playful, caged and protected, aimless and directed, clenched and hugged, and self-forgetting and sharing. Unlike previous bodies of work, figures appear less abstract and noticeably distinct from their grounds, reflexively signaling narrative cues. This legibility is a ruse. Instead of delivering clear meaning, the paintings in Trojan Horses summon a quality of entanglement—they speak to the way things can be inextricably connected despite appearing otherwise. I use painting like a foil or a Rorschach, I treat it like a moving cloud—not sketching figures at the start but finding imagery through the repurposing of initial abstractions. Painting is less a transcript of an idea and more a loop of mutation, with the impetus that started a painting changing over the course of its becoming. For me, the whole point of painting is to be in the mud with ideas previously uncoupled. Painting as instigator, infiltrator, revelator—equal parts randomness with its necessary constraints and equal parts intentionality. Via this free-associative process, I ‘Trojan horse’ ideas and feelings into a painting, and in turn the painting becomes a Trojan horse for things that can’t be fully grasped by language alone. Mullen’s newest paintings pursue a sense of indeterminacy. In Builder’s Arms, for example, the figure emerges from a magenta abyss behind the grid or scaffold we assume they have built. Spent by the effort or taking a pause, the figure slumps forward, held by a large spider web that weaves in and out of the structure, immobilizing them. Neither caught nor complicit, the figure’s arm ends in a willful fist, an apt metaphor for the way that art consumes the artist even as it offers a means for realization. Mullen’s work is a recognition of the double-sided character of desire—of the anxious hope, painful pleasure, and inextricable entanglement that it holds in tension—a Trojan horse of Trojan horses. Bridget Mullen holds an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and a BAE from Drake University. She has been awarded residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Headlands Center for the Arts, The Jan Van Eyck Academie, The Lighthouse Works, Roswell Artist-In-Residence Program, The Fine Arts Work Center, MacDowell, and Yaddo. Her recent solo exhibitions include Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles, CA; Nathalie Karg, New York, NY; Helena Anrather, New York, NY; and Annet Gelink, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and recent group exhibitions include Plains Art Museum, Fargo, ND; Bradley Ertaskiran, Montréal, Canada; Fabian Lang, Zürich, Switzerland; Wild Palms, Düsseldorf, Germany; Hesse Flatow, New York, NY; Venus Over Manhattan, New York, NY; Fahrenheit Madrid, Madrid, Spain; and L21, Mallorca, Spain. She is the 2022 recipient of the Chiaro Award from Headlands Center for the Arts, a 2021 recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Painting Fellowship, and a 2017–2018 recipient of a studio from the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program. Mullen’s work has been featured in Artforum, The Brooklyn Rail, Juxtapoz, Maake Magazine, Hyperallergic, and ArtMaze. Her work is in the collections of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art in Roswell, NM, and the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, Long Beach, CA. In 2023, Mullen released Birthday, a 120-page monograph co-published by Nazarian / Curcio and Brussels and Mexico City-based ZOLO Press, featuring the ongoing series of the same name and including a conversation between Mullen and fellow artist Lucas Blalock. - Nazarian / Curcio is pleased to announce Stray Animals, a show of new free-standing and wall-based ceramic sculptures by Los Angeles and Barcelona-based Charles Snowden. This will be the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. The menagerie of animals, insects, goblins, and gnomes that appear in Snowden’s work are drawn from various apotropaic traditions, including the cults of Greco-Roman antiquity and the pre-Columbian Colima culture of western Mexico, for which they act as wards against evil. Snowden combines these with hands, eyes, skulls, teeth, mushrooms and twigs, seashells, dog toys, jewelry, fishing bobbers, fruit, vegetables, and a myriad of other animated objects that stand in for the elemental forces of nature. These protective idols reference universal cycles of life and death, regeneration and growth, and destruction and creation - mutually dependent forces that guide all life. Guided by the notion of the stray, Snowden has cultivated a garden of symbols where meaning is left free to wander intuitively across disparate objects. Throughout the exhibition, sculptures are grouped together on pedestals in ways that accentuate the multiplicity of forms that populate Snowden’s work and imply their co-existence, building a world where they interact and reproduce — “[m]onstrosities flowering like a flower,” as Baudelaire might say. Wall works punctuate the space and introduce gravity as an important element, giving weight to the strings of charms as they hang suspended. As an introduction to the exhibition, a large wall-based sculpture spells out the exhibition title, Stray Animals, in a series of contorted figures and objects. The works in Stray Animals use the language of symbols to explore the boundaries between human and non-human experience. For Snowden, symbols record our awareness of a spiritual realm beneath the physical, offering a means for confronting phenomena beyond human comprehension by giving them a name and a face. At the same time, the symbolic appropriation of nature transforms it from something purely material into the guise of hidden, supersensible forces which can be invoked through the semblance of certain objects or signs. Sculptures like Pyre, Gentle Reminder, and How to Make Clay not only serve as powerful memento mori—reminders of the inescapability of death—but also represent the artistic process as an unexpected outpouring of images, an entanglement of incongruous forms and opposing forces that nevertheless hold together. The origins of art in early magic are recalled through the ritualistic logic that orders the symbols making up Snowden’s sculptures. Like religious relics, in which the remnants of a long-passed prophet or saint are believed to possess supernatural powers, the sculptures in Stray Animals treat body parts, insects, animals, and other creatures as ideal forms corresponding to an elemental plane of existence. Their primordial character reveals humanity as only a moment of nature, a single point in an infinitely and unfolding process whose trajectory and purpose defy our understanding. Metaphor is stretched to its limits in Snowden’s work, becoming a tool for connecting extremes and recognizing, like the German poet Paul Celan, that “there are / still songs to sing beyond / mankind.”