The Hole is proud to present the second solo show by Canadian-born painter Caroline Larsen, “Kaleidoscopic." In thirteen new oil paintings she does a deep-dive into her floral works making a series of still-life paintings of elaborate bouquets in equally elaborated vases. Pushing both her icing-thick painting technique and her floral theme forward with a concentrated study of the still-life genre, Larsen here makes both her wildest and most mature works.
The history of still life painting begun in the Dutch Golden Age takes a seriously weird turn here, as both flowers, vase and background are taken over the top in hue and in texture. Since a floral arrangement in a vase was allowed to be the sole subject of a painting at the turn of the 17th century, both scientifically showing off the diversity of nature’s bounty and prosaically immortalizing it as a symbol of wealth and power, this genre has endured in many iterations across the movements and centuries. Here in 2019 Larsen uses Art Deco and Rococo Revival-era vases to present impossibly colorful and thick flower arrangements against optically scintillating backgrounds.
The vases in these paintings go back from a Qing Dynasty-era Chinese enamel vase to Rococo revival styles of porcelain mid-19th century, though the majority of the vases are from Longwy, France during the Art Deco period. The very round boule vases for example are from this faïencerie, whose overglaze enamel decoration became world-famous in 1925 during the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts where the term “Art Deco” was coined. Similar to cloisonné, these vases lend themselves to Larsen’s stained-glass style of discrete color zones piled high with pigment. Overflowing each vase are beautifully impossible-colored tiger lilies, leopard spotted pansies, parti-colored zinnias, neon edged leaves and purple polka dotted tulips.
In terms of painting technique, here we find Larsen (already a weaver of oil paint) climbing higher to even thicker and more gravity-defying piles of paint. Using bags of oil paint with icing nibs, she squirts and squeezes the paint into confectionary piles, frosting the panel with tubular and Spiro-form extrusions. In this show she experiments with depth by adding both scraped away areas and inches-thick piles of paint; the chunkiest monkey she started in May adding layer after layer over months as it dried. Also debuting here are silly-string type spritzes and plumply pipetted line-work not seen previously in her oeuvre.
The combination of the fondant formalism and the techno-deco subject matter of each painting is pretty psycho, tbh. I would euphemistically call it “questioning notions of taste” but really they kinda explode the idea of aesthetic taste. For paintings with such a gustatory suggestiveness, they are just about as “tasteful” as a mouthful of oil paint. Oil paint was invented to allow light to shine through it creating the illusion of volume and living flesh; squirting a giant opaque blob of it directly onto the canvas is like the exact wrong way to do it. Using a tool wrong is a great area for artistic exploration and here Larsen is perverting paint’s intended use, perverting the intent of the still life genre and even perhaps the decorative arts! If the paintings look perversely disobedient this might be why.
Caroline Larsen (b. 1980 Toronto, Canada) received her MFA with honors at Pratt in 2015 and has exhibited widely since, including solo exhibitions in 2018 at Andrew Rafacz in Chicago, Dio Horia in Mykonos, Greece and General Hardware in Toronto. Gordon Gallery in Tel Aviv and Craig Krull in Santa Monica both presented solo exhibitions in 2017 and, for our part, “Kabloom!” introduced New York audiences to her work summer of 2016. She currently has work in “The Beyond: Georgia O’Keefe” at the North Carolina Museum of Art, a traveling exhibition curated by and begun at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AK. She has participated in group exhibitions at Guerrero Gallery, SF and Greenpoint Terminal Gallery, Brooklyn and has work in the Dean Collection, the Aisthti Foundation, JB Art Collection Miami, TD Canada, the Donovan Collection as well as numerous other public collections around the world.
MATHEW ZEFELDT CUSTOMIZABLE REALITIES
January 3 - February 3, 2019
OPENING: Thursday, January 3rd from 6-9pm
The Hole is proud to present the first New York solo exhibition by Minneapolis-based artist Mathew Zefeldt. Covering the walls and floor of our gallery 3 space with a giant oil on panel mural, Zefeldt will then hang eight new paintings on top of the installation. “Customizable Realities” is a completely immersive post-analog painting installation and must be experienced first-hand.
As the artist had to meticulously plan this out months ago, we know that exactly 2104 square feet of painting was generated for this installation. Executed with black and greyscale oil paint on panel, this walk-in mural consists of sixteen repeated screen shot images from the video game Grand Theft Auto V (2013). The LA car-scape with houses in the hills and a palm-tree lined horizon surrounds you, the wide streets dotted with cars take you into the world of the video game; a layering of imperfect squares of paint evokes the sort of glitteringly bright LA light and also the light from behind screen of the video game.
The eight paintings hung in the installation are a focus of the artist’s thinking about the subject matter. Cop cars on fire, Porsches on Mulholland drive, rocks, deer, a crashed car, even a fighter jet approaching a bridge are all images generated by the artist playing GTA as an avatar of himself, creating evocative images in this sandbox game, looking for poetic moments instead of achieving car-theft goals.
Each painting depicts repeated images like a tiled desktop, from two to nine to thirty in some panels; painted over and over again by hand, matching almost perfectly with their twins. Such repetition is not natural to analog life, rather it is the realm of cut and pasteable endlessly iterable images in the digital realm. Why bother? It must be maddening to execute and “meditative” seems doubtful given the subject matter.
I guess that is the heart of the "why" in this show: for me, recreating and repeating images only a computer could make is an homage of sorts paying respect to the new image-vistas technology opens up. However here perhaps there is a bit more criticism, Zefeldt sees these as “virtual plein-air paintings” from an escapist fantasy world. Artists are always fascinated with painting the world around them; a lot of young people today spend the majority of their lives in constructed virtual worlds around them. Consequence-free killing and death, endless respawn; take selfies, beat hookers, Thelma-and-Louise it off a cliff….
Zefeldt (b. 1987, Antioch, CA) is currently a professor of painting and drawing at University of Minnesota. He received his MFA in studio art from UC Davis in 2011 and went to undergrad at UC Santa Cruz. His work has been exhibited at Joshua Liner Gallery, NY; Big Pictures, Los Angeles; Celaya Brothers, Mexico City; and MOHS Exhibit, Copenhagen.