|Sexy girl oil paintings on cutout wood panel.|
Hajimari- a prelude
December 12, 2009-January 9, 2010
Jonathan Levine Gallery
529 West 20th Street, N.Y, N.Y
This past Saturday evening marked the anticipated New York debut solo show, Hajimari-a prelude, of art star Audrey Kawasaki at Jonathan Levine Gallery. Upon being let onto the 9th floor from the elevator, we were greeted by an assortment of people on a tight, buzzing line that wound around the narrow hallways and even up into the stairwell. A few clipboards were being passed around for the print list; an edition of 150 was available for those lucky to have camped out early enough. This kind of fervor is expected when it comes to Kawasaki and her work, who, like her lovely paintings, remained gracious and radiant throughout the evening. The rise and continued success of Kawasaki marks a new breed of artist in the contemporary movement, one whose work and persona are both highly sought after by a diverse audience that bridges the gap between ages, sexes and cultures, as was evident by those who attended her show, some of which were experiencing their first time in a gallery.
The 15 new paintings, all composed on wood with oil and graphite and featuring her signature, obsessive explorations of the female form via sleepy eyed, sexually charged femmes, continues on the contradictory themes of innocence and sexual fruition. The female figure in her work is never named and she repeatedly appears as a sister, twin lover, muse, schoolgirl, an ornamented geisha, a goddess covered in crow feathers, and even once as a boy. This figure has plagued Kawasaki, has been the ghost she has been chasing, panel after panel, year after year. She is an enigma that even the artist can't fully describe and it may be just for this reason that she is so alluring. She is usually seen as the only realized apparition on the spatial plane of the composition, but within the new work, her surroundings have grown more concrete, more narrative, a technique that has added more of a history and culture to the figures, a choice that in part was inspired by Kawasaki's return to her family's homeland in Japan.
The titles reflect this hybrid culture as they appear in Japanese and English. Even the faces, with their tender pale glow around the eyes and sensuous lips, appear to have a more defined ethnicity than in her past incarnations. Their hair, bulbous and epic, reveals more drama and ornamentation, setting her in a more esteemed role while in other renderings her loose hair and nude body reveals her vulnerable yet confident persona. These contradictions are nearly always at play; a loose kimono exposes the bare shoulders of one figure while a set of twins fully reveal their nude forms. This speaks to the mysterious nature of the feminine identity, at once both revealing and hidden. In ,Yuugure no Houkago (After School) this theme is fully explored as a fully uniformed school girl stands in front of two figures, one whose anatomy is exposed while the other is reduced to a skeleton.
By adding these more narrative elements; coupled with a glowing and pale color palate, the work becomes more substantial, has more of a complex texture that was only hinted at previously. The eternal "she" has found a context, a specific, (yet varied) identity in these new works, even if she is often alone within these landscapes. In this way, the landscape itself is a kind of reveal, a clue as to who "she" is. However, as unexpected and mysterious as her muse, Kawasaki might decide for these additions to dissolve into the wood grain again. For one thing, a very loyal and diverse audience will be waiting, and watching for her next incarnation.
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