Monday, June 22, 2009
Monique van Genderen at Happy Lion
I have been a couple of times now to see Monique van Genderen’s new paintings at Happy Lion Gallery in Chinatown, and I still don’t know what to think about them. I am seduced and repelled at the same time: the paintings’ slick, shiny surfaces and bright colors beckon but are ultimately inscrutable, like a tagged-up wall.
The 6’x4’ panels march around the gallery walls in lock-step, with flower forms, rainbow arches, and blocky areas of color flowing from one to the next. I kind of want to lick them (flavors like Tutti Fruitti and Daquiri Ice—Baskin Robbins circa 1985—come to mind), and I also want to wrap them around giant gift baskets for my girlfriends, like cellophane. The gallery space feels like a haute-couture fete. But in my jeans and t-shirt with fingers smelling like the egg roll I just ate, I am the frumpy girl at this party; I can’t untangle the refined language, perfect manners, and manicured surfaces of these abstractions.
After reading back over what I just wrote, I see that my interpretation of these paintings could be called feminine, as I have described them in the language of Vogue or the late Domino. I get the feeling from her artist statement that van Genderen would be okay with that. She describes her work thusly:
“Paint hangs on the surface, exposing the structure of the panel, not unlike the various states of dress a model for couture might display, showing contour and line through bone beneath the fabric.”
She goes on:
“Let’s say they have nothing to do with the figure at all, it is at least true that the works were made by a feminine hand, trying to carve out theoretical space in this world. For weaponry I resort to scale and boldness of color in order to cast about my subjectivity. Abstraction and materiality are the indicators and the language for what lies beneath.”
Subjective experience, beauty and meaning in pattern, idealization of feminine difference: aren’t these hallmarks of Feminist art? So maybe I was right after all to picture myself in a room full of beauty queens who are preening for my gaze yet are aloof from the need for my regard at the same time. I am still left not knowing what to think, but I really want to join the dance, all the same.
Van Genderen's work is on view through July 11. Image is an installation shot from the gallery's website.