Artists have depicted struggle for centuries. From political and religious strife to the struggle within the artists’ wormwood-pocked mind, these days some of the most alluring paintings do not depict struggle as much as they embody it. Paint itself can appear tortured: scraped, smeared, erased, diluted, sanded and dug into.
Diane Christiansen’s current exhibition, cleverly titled “Cup Freaketh Over,” embraces the struggle between the artist and her medium, but ever so gracefully and intentionally. Her oil on plaster works have a worn aesthetic—perhaps a nod to Renaissance-era fresco paintings, but feel very fresh and contemporary through the artists’ tentative application and unique palette. An unsteady line forms a corpse-like forearm, reaching out of a deep blue swirl of paint, clutching something unrecognizable. An acorn hangs, cradled in an elastic ribbon, pulled down from a clumsy cluster of red, pink, brown and ochre loops of paint, pulling forth from the plaster ground which seems to want to suck up the pigment as it has in so many other areas on the painting. These works are simultaneously playful and painful, often with bodily titles like “Hairy Eyeball” and “Amphetamines,” and each with a distinct air of anxiety.
An animation in a second gallery is a collaboration with Shoshanna Utchenik and features Christiansen’s delightful sculptures. These brightly painted fantastical heads sit in the gallery and bridge the two-dimensional work with the four-dimensional film. Two masked figures dance around a forest to a tingly, minimal soundtrack. One pokes the other’s exposed organs, and heads come flying out of the body and around the forest, rounding out the exhibition by suggesting the same concoction of terrifying whimsy that is alluded to in all of her recent work. (Kelly Reaves)
Through November 16 at Kasia Kay Art Projects, 215 North Aberdeen.