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August 2010

Sylvia Ji

Sylvia Ji Sylvia Ji is a Los Angeles based artist whose work celebrates the female warrior. Sylvia Ji’s portraits depict fierce and feminine soldaderas, the spiritual sisters of women who assisted and fought alongside troops in the Mexican Revolution and were immortalized in folksong with the corrido “La Adelita.” Though not referencing soldiers, per se, Ji’s figures are warriors of sexual and moral ambiguity. With haunting and alluring beauty, they brim over melodramatically with a mix of sexual provocation and danger, as well as the threat of decay implicit in their skeletal markings. The artist has said that her paintings are symbolic reflections of herself or people she knows, but they are also totem images for a kind of universal revolutionary attitude of any age, gender, or cause.

What distinguishes Las Adelitas are the paintings’ uneasy admixture of the traditional and the contemporary. This ambiguous context for the images is echoed in the figures’ clothing and face markings, which are at once tattoo- and mask-like. The costumes—including ponchos and embroidered cloth—suggest the indigenous apparel of Michoacán, Puebla, and other areas of Mexico that is still popular in many adapted forms today. Ji’s paintings, like Red Quechquemitls and Red Serape, reference specific articles of clothing, but more importantly, evoke muertos of traditional Mexican culture.

Occurring annually at the beginning of November, Los Diás de los Muertos are feast days acknowledging the dearly departed through fiestas for the dead. Celebrated with personalized altars, or ofrendas, and held directly on graves in cemeteries, these special occasions are populated with colorful skulls and skeletons, dressed up and wearing hats. Though these “days of the dead” are considered happy occasions, Ji’s elegant muertos carry an edge of menace in their ambiguity. This is perhaps why muertos were an appealing symbol for artist and political satirist J. G. Posada and other Mexican Revolutionaries, as well as contemporary provocateurs like Ji.

Born in 1982 in San Francisco, Sylvia Ji received a BFA from the Academy of Art University; she currently lives and works in Southern California. Selected solo exhibitions include: Nectar, Stolen Space Gallery, London (2009); Sylvia Ji, White Walls Gallery, San Francisco (2008); and Love, Beauty, Perversion, Romeo 5, San Francisco (2006). Selected group exhibitions include: In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA (2008); Behind Bedroom Doors, Thinkspace Gallery, Los Angeles (2007); Tortured Souls, The Scion Dashboard, San Francisco (2006); and Young Guns at the Sundance Film Festival, Chester’s Blacksmith Shop, Park City, UT (2006).

Andrea Galvani

Andrea_smoke Andrea Galvani was born in Verona, Italy in 1973. He lives and works in Milan and Brooklyn. "I work for weeks in an area. The process involves camping out, building temporary structures, shifting animals, people and physically intervening the space. In fact, I feel that I need to get close to the land, to slowly repossess it in order to then violate it, turn it on it's head using different materials including smoke, mirrors, balloons, images'fragments. I'm trying to reactivate the visual mechnanism through real actions. The relationship with experience, risk, atmospheric phenomenon and physical limitations of means as well as the site in wich I work, are all deciding factors in the development of my projects. My research often takes on a scientific aspect, focusing attention on the invisible mechanisms that construct and transform life."

Tom Bevan

Tom bevans Tom Bevan is an assemblage mosaic artist who works out of Brooklyn in New York City. His sculptures and household objects remind me of the work of the 20th Century collagist Kurt Schwitters who used found objects to create his art. Bevan uses pieces of broken crockery, small objects and tiles and embeds them in plaster. For many years he worked out of the Crane Artist Studios which was part of 5 Pointz in Long Island City, Queens, New York.

Bevan is a Belfast native who has been the recipient of many foundation grants and several prestigious residencies. Bevan travels overseas to exhibitions where his work is showing. “I’m trying to connect more with Ireland,” he said. “I’m better known there because of the work I do about the Troubles.”

Bevan, who does assemblage sculptures from found materials, spends periods living and working in a rented house in Glencar, County Down in Ireland, that has no indoor running water or electricity. He first came to New York as a resident in the P.S. 1 International Studio Program.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo A fascinating woman and a fiercely independent painting style typifies Frida Kahlo for me. In the past, her fame was eclipsed by her husband, Diego Rivera, whose political murals adorned buildings around the world. However, Kahlo and her entracing work has come into its own in the past few years.

From 1926 until her death, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo created striking, often shocking, images that reflected her turbulent life. Kahlo was one of four daughters born to a Hungarian-Jewish father and a mother of Spanish and Mexican Indian descent, in the Mexico City suburb of Coyoacán.

She did not originally plan to become an artist. A polio survivor, at 15 Kahlo entered the premedical program at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. However, this training ended three years later when Kahlo was gravely hurt in a bus accident. She spent over a year in bed, recovering from fractures of her back, collarbone, and ribs, as well as a shattered pelvis and shoulder and foot injuries. Despite more than 30 subsequent operations, Kahlo spent the rest of her life in constant pain, finally succumbing to related complications at age 47.

During her convalescence Kahlo had begun to paint with oils. Her pictures, mostly self-portraits and still lifes, were deliberately naive, filled with the bright colors and flattened forms of the Mexican folk art she loved. At 21, Kahlo fell in love with the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, whose approach to art and politics suited her own. Although he was 20 years her senior, they were married in 1929; this stormy, passionate relationship survived infidelities, the pressures of Rivera's career, a divorce and remarriage, and Kahlo's poor health. The couple traveled to the United States and France, where Kahlo met luminaries from the worlds of art and politics; she had her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City in 1938. Kahlo enjoyed considerable success during the 1940s, but her reputation soared posthumously, beginning in the 1980s with the publication of numerous books about her work by feminist art historians and others. In the last two decades an explosion of Kahlo-inspired films, plays, calendars, and jewelry has transformed the artist into a veritable cult figure.