Genesis Belanger, Julie Bena, Nick Doyle, Adam Henry, Katherine March, Ander Mikalson, Ryan Mrozowski, Anne Neukamp, B. Ingrid Olson, Renaud Regnery, Emily Mae Smith Organized by Walter Wanger and Dan DuryeaSeptember 8th - October 30th, 2016
325 Broome St
Suspicious Behavior, 2016
Dibond, plywood, machine bolts, gear-motor
30 x 22 1/2 inches
Katherine March (1910-1945)
vinyl paint on wood panel
30 x 24 inches
B. Ingrid Olson
Man is a Window, 2016
Silver gelatin print and UV printed mat board in aluminum frame
21 x 26 inches
acrylic, tempera, oil on cotton 31 x 24 inches
Gouache and color pencil on book page
4 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches
Emily Mae Smith
Anxious Pastoral, 2016
oil on linen
30 x 38 inches
Sailing close to the Wind – Saudade, 2016
Will o the Wisp, May - December, 2016
Untitled (soft Pyramid), 2016
Acrylic and Synthetic Polymers on linen
31 x 42 inches
FTPTG XS 1, 2016 and FTPTG XS 2, 2016
vintage wallpaper on linen
10 x 7 1/2 inches and 13 3/4 x 7 inches
Scarlet Street (Doors and Aperture), 2016
fifty gouaches on paper
10 1/2 x 10 1/2 each (framed) – overall dimensions vary with installation
This exhibition brings together a community of participants from three countries who have made new works based on Scarlet Street, one of the most peculiar examples of American film noir cinema. Directed by the great German émigré filmmaker Fritz Lang in 1945 and adapted from French sources, it was initially censored but later became celebrated as a subversive classic and for being the first Hollywood melodrama to end in an immoral manner.
The film tells the story of Christopher Cross (played by Edward G. Robinson), a middle-age cashier and amateur painter who allows himself to be misled by a beautiful young seductress (Joan Bennett) after the femme fatale and her abusive boyfriend mistake the love-struck fool for a renowned artist. When they realize their error, they begin to successfully sell Cross’s paintings under her name. The dupe is thrilled by the attention from critics and from the young woman until he discovers that his admirer is a mere gold-digger.
The plot inevitably ends in heartbreak for the deceived protagonist, who kills the woman in a fit of despair and eventually goes insane. Although he is absolved of the murder, the film concludes with him wandering darkened streets, confronted by his own (self-) portrait of the woman in the window of the city’s most prestigious gallery. He remains haunted by his now completely unattainable successes in both art and love.
Scarlet Street – both the film and this exhibition – exemplify the gloomy yet glamorous atmosphere, mysterious narrative patterns, and unsettling visual effects that characterize film noir and gothic melodramas of the 1940s. The new works made for this show specifically address the themes of Scarlet Street, such as the instability of authorship, a complicated view of feminism, uncertainty about (self-) portrayal, and a dark humor exemplified in its unparalleled witty badinage. Accordingly, the exhibition creates a state oftension and a feeling ofambiguity to echo the fascinating junction of French, German, and American culture that is Scarlet Street.
Genesis Belanger (b. 1978, Worcester, MA), Sailing Close to the Wind, 2016; Saudade, 2016; Will o’ the Wisp, May-December, 2016. Porcelain, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.
Belanger has created a group of ceramics for this exhibition that wittily evoke film noir’s femme fatale feminism. They function like clues that recall the genre’s central themes and symbols, but with an added deceptive complexity that is achieved through their almost surrealist turn. Accordingly, Belanger undermines the assertion that the women in these films had unnaturally seized masculine authorial power, as often embodied by their phallic cigarettes and revolvers. Indeed, her use of materials to almost humorous ends demonstrate her artistic potency, but also an important retort and deep skepticism toward male-centric inherited histories.
Julie Bena (b. 1982, Paris, France), The Oracle. Print on fabric, 78.75 x 39.37 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Joseph Tang, Paris.
(In exterior windows)
Bena postulates her wide-ranging artistic practice around a theatricality and strangeness that is as alluring as it is disquieting. The mysterious curtains she includes in this exhibition and their formal and spatial enigmatic qualities evoke the unknowability of others that is such a central motif to Scarlet Street. Bena channels the figure of the oracular female goddess through these forms, but one who offers her devotees prophesy or bliss that just as easily and swiftly can turn into danger and doom.
Nick Doyle (b. 1983, Los Angeles, CA), Suspicious Behavior, 2016. Dibond, plywood, machine bolts, gear-motor, 30 x 22.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Doyle creates sculpture that is deceptively comical or seemingly lighthearted like Scarlet Street’s dark humor and witty badinage, but his artworks always also offer an underlying darkness and social criticism. They are meticulously crafted with fastidious engineering that utilizes an overly complex mechanism and excessive motion to achieve almost obviously simple ends. Like the elaborate narratives of gothic melodramas and films with countless plot twists, the guilty criminal gets his in the end, no matter how embellished the form or process of his demise.
Adam Henry (b. 1974, Pueblo, CO), Untitled (Soft Pyramid), 2016. Acrylic and Synthetic Polymers on Linen, 31 x 42 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Henry has created a new work for the exhibition that evokes the gloomy yet glamorous atmosphere of 1940s film noir. His paintings are meticulously crafted with a painstaking precision much like the meticulous expressionism of Lang’s film. Likewise, Henry’s paintings highlight the instability of human perception – their constantly shifting ambiguity echoes Scarlet Street’s characters and their enigmatic motivations. As soon as we think we understand their intentions, they've shifted shape.
Katherine March (b. 1910, Fort Lee, NJ – d. 1945 New York, NY), Self-Portrait, 1945. Vinyl paint on wood panel, 36 x 24 inches. Estate of the artist.
March had a meteoric career as a painter after a sudden emergence on the scene in the early 1940s. Despite an untimely, tragic death, she achieved immense popularity during that decade, which included an exhibition of her paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in 1946 under the pseudonym John Decker. Despite this brief success, she has largely been forgotten in the period since. This exhibition marks the rediscovery of this important female painter with the first public showing of her rediscovered masterful self-portrait.
Ander Mikalson (b. 1983, Santa Monica, CA), Scarlet Street (Doors and Apertures), 2016. Fifty drawings, gouache on paper, 8 x 8 inches. Courtesy ofthe artist.
Mikalson has created a suite of pastel drawings that score Fritz Lang’s use of shadows in doors and windows throughout Scarlet Street. They call attention to a motif that makes us understand subsequent viewings of the film through a newly attentive lens. Likewise, the last drawing, with a timestamp corresponding to the film's final moments, circuitously echoes Katherine March's portrait in this gallery's window. Mikalson highlights the director's use of chiaroscuro and expressionist mise-en-scène, especially the motif of the foreboding darkened passageway. By juxtaposing these variations in shadow, placement, and tone in her poetically rendered compositions, she is able to expressively abstract these film stills while also alluding to the darker possibilities they each contain.
Ryan Mrozowski (b. 1981, Indiana, PA), Untitled, 2016. Gouache and color pencil on book page, 4.75 x 4.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist and On Stellar Rays.
The artistic themes in Scarlet Street begin with Christopher Cross' surrealistic painting of a white flower that has been given to him by the woman he covets. When his colleague sees the painting, he wonders why the flower was depicted in such an unnatural manner, and disbelievingly inquires; "You mean, you see this, when you look at that?" Mrozowski's erpretation of a taxonomic illustration of a flower makes it strange through a different means, but the results are similarly illuminating and heartfelt.
Anne Neukamp (b. 1976, Düsseldorf, Germany), Untitled, 2016. Acrylic, tempera, oil, on cotton, 31 x 24 Inches. Courtesy of the artist and Galerija Gregor Podnar, Berlin.
Neukamp has produced a painting about painting for this exhibition about a movie about painting (and perhaps its two curving graphic icons might even evoke the metaphorical pattern of the main character's name?). Moreover, it’s trompe l’oeil and representation of stylized brushstrokes produce unsettling effects that disrupt and rebuff viewers, much like the unsettling visual motifs that characterize film noir.
B. Ingrid Olson (b. 1987, Denver, CO), Man is a Window, 2016. Silver gelatin print and UV printed mat board in aluminum frame, 21 x 26 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery.
Olson's new work for this exhibition expresses film noir’s crisscrossing narrative patterns and the resulting duplicitous personas reflected in false, doubled images. Likewise, the piece proposes a mysterious seductiveness that is indicative of the genre’s complicated propositions about gender. Accordingly, Olson elegantly echoes the allure of the conniving femme fatale who traps her prey in a spider-like web with exquisite results.
Renaud Regnery (b. 1976, Epinal, France), FTPTG XS 1, 2016; FTPTG XS 2, 2016. Vintage wallpaper on linen, 13.75 x 7 inches; 10 x 7.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Regnery frequently uses historic wallpaper in ways that make meaningful transformations from this original source material. For these works, he chose to use faux-tile wallpaper from the 1930s, which served as an inexpensive alternative during the Great Depression. This echoes the same historic context and social upheaval that led to the formulation offilm noir in the history ofcinema. Moreover, the subtle shifts of these simple patterns produce an unmistakable state of tension and feeling of ambiguity through their misalignment.
Emily Mae Smith (b. 1979, Austin, TX), Anxious Pastoral, 2016. Oil on linen, 30 x 38 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Smith has frequently created paintings that feature a femme fatale alter-ego. In the painting she has made specifically for this exhibition, her vocabulary and recurring motifs take on an additionally threatening valence. The optimistic clouds of historic cinema's final dissolve and its threateningly elegant beauty become menacingly merged to create a complete, ultimate consumption.