I was really struck by Robin F. William’s work. She is able to take the human body and distort and reinvent it through color, perspective, and exaggeration. I am particularly interested in how the works seem to be intimidating and create a sense of uncomfortableness within the viewer.
Williams was very open about her struggles and her process. She told us of how she had become successful at a young age, and how she put pressure on herself to try to live up to this success. While she was always painting, she felt that she had to focus on how her work would sell. This led her to become lost and disengaged with the work she was producing. She described how in the past she had creature figurative paintings of “fragile men,” but people did not want to buy these works. She felt that she could not paint women for a while. However, once she made the transition, she felt liberated and proud of her work and the messages and discussions it provoked.
I thought it was fascinating to see how Williams works so precisely from her drawings and translates them into painting. You could really see how thought-out her process is. I found myself looking at the drawing and painting of her current work and seeing how they translated and the alterations she made in the process. There is such a mesmerizing quality to the way that she applies the paint and the color decisions she makes. It was interesting to learn how she was an illustrator in the past because I felt that a lot of the line work and expressiveness of the figures could be traced back to the process of drawing and illustrating.
Williams offered a lot of valuable advice such as how it is important to save a work every now and then, especially when the market is very interested in your work. The work that she saved for herself was on the wall across from her current project. It seemed like a sort of metaphor for what could be accomplished.
Rachel Harrison’s show at the Whitney was very exciting as well. Harrison works include sculpture, photography, and drawing. She works with found objects to discuss the “breadth of art history, the impurities of politics, and the artifacts of pop and celebrity culture.”
With a lot of Harrison’s sculptures, I found myself wondering how they were able to be supported. They were able to stand on their own although they appeared heavy. An example of this is the work that appears to resemble a rock on stilts or a table. Both were painted a milky light green color. There is a framed photograph protruding off of the sculpture. I found myself thinking about this work and what it could mean. To me, the sculpture itself is meant to be absurd and strange. It should not logically be able to be supported the way it appears to be. However, somehow by placing the framed picture on top of the sculpture, this becomes the peculiar aspect, the thing that should not belong. Ironically, one would think it would be the other way around. Harrison seems to be playing with perception and the familiar and unfamiliar in her work as well. Most of her sculptures referenced readymade objects and combined a variety of media. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and found her work to be especially relevant presently.
(image courtesy of Robin F. Williams)