GGW Through July 26; Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. CSN Fine Art Gallery.
Inebriated college girls splay across the picture plane in Wendy Kveck’s GGW exhibition. They’re drunk, they’re garish, they’re horrifying, but they’re also struggling against the odds to contain themselves. The pushback is evident in Kveck’s constraining lines and strong contours, in purposeful patches of florid color. It is almost as if the artist were attempting to compensate for female excess by reining in her subject matter, isolating the figures on a purifying white ground.
The relationship between women and excess is Kveck’s focus. Two “pastry-chef” bas-reliefs and two impasto paintings included in the GGW exhibit embody the buildup and layering of the Las Vegan’s earlier work, in which messy accretions dramatize the women/food/body hoard. The contrast with the new suite of nine works on paper is striking. With a confident and adept line, Kveck drafts spare, hybrid figures from photos of blotto college girls, life drawings and coloring-book characters. Using Sharpies, she applies blocks of color to her monsters, bucking up against the contour lines or submitting to their tyranny.
One of the strongest works in the show, “Princess (Green Face),” depicts a woozy floozy in the act of disrobing, her flaccid, deformed figure too small for her defiant head. The flamboyant EDC costume and body are topped by a lime-green face, pierced by slit and injured eyes, the red lips slattern and engorged. While the coloring alludes to children’s drawings, the naive effect is far from charming. Kveck’s “princess” is a terrifying and perverse superhero beat up by overindulgence and calling it a night.
In portraying ugly women, Kveck aligns herself with the modernist revolt against the artistic canon and its exaltation of feminine beauty. The 20th century is littered with paintings seeking to destroy the female form in order to dominate her, most famously exemplified by de Kooning, Picasso and Francis Bacon. Since Kveck can’t look at women as men do, she creates Frankenstein hybrids that raise a paradoxical question: Who is responsible for making these self-destructive creatures? Our post-feminist society, in which gender-neutral currents coexist with traditional gender roles, has trouble accounting for hundreds of thousands of wasted coeds.
Kveck’s GGW sublimates the issues without judgment, undertaking a forensics of female identity without seeking to lay blame. Her grotesque figures are tragic, not sentimental. Mostly, they’re fascinating.