Wendy Kveck’s hard-hitting ‘Stanley Hall’ brings Trifecta to stunning close

Dawn-Michelle Baude

From Wendy Kveck's Stanley Hall exhibit at Trifecta Gallery.

Four and a half stars

Stanley Hall Through December 27; Wednesday & Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Trifecta Gallery, 702- 366-7001.

Trifecta Gallery’s hard-hitting final show, Wendy Kveck’s Stanley Hall, discharges vibrancy at the same time it consumes an intimate, almost fetishistic attention. The jaw drops, the psyche reels. In the large canvases, audacious, clashing color careens amid a riot of brushwork and layering. Yet the women Kveck depicts—her sleeping beauties—are undisturbed by the uproar. Lolling peacefully in their princess costumes, they incubate in nests of polarized light.

Stanley Hall marks a shift in Kveck’s practice, away from the grotesque theme of the GGW (Girls Gone Wild) series—works-on-paper featuring besotted coeds. The florid palette is still there, along with the dictatorial contour lines, but the raw, bursting quality of an artist discovering her content has yielded to a deeper contemplation of female excess and identity.

At the hinge between the two bodies of work (Stanley Hall includes seven small GGW drawings) is “Undone,” a 37-by-27-inch acrylic oil pen and oil portrait. In its ardent deformation of the female form, “Undone” pings famous 20th-century misogynists (Picasso’s portraits of his wife Jacqueline come to mind), but instead of depicting hateful females, Kveck sympathizes with their compulsive tendency toward self-destruction. Compassion lurks in her nervy, honest line, and in the unfinished figure on its empty ground. The drippy, de-gendered paraffin face and bloated rake of a hand were caught in the process of materializing. The morphing body needs white space to claim identity and emerge.

“Undone” is the first work in the Stanley Hall series based on a photo of an “activated” GGW princess from Kveck’s MAS Attack Vegas performance held at VAST Space Projects earlier this year. It’s also the first of her works using “blind contour drawing,” a technique of drawing without looking at the paper. Blind contour drawing swaps realistic accuracy for emotional honesty and lends itself to an expressionistic style.

Kveck’s masterful painting, “In the Meadow,” begins with a blind contour drawing of a princess photo. Then comes the loose brushwork, the molding of the figure in chromatic splendor, the ornate superimposition of form and line. As the layers build, a clumsy pretend-princess emerges wearing a cheap tiara, sleeping in a colorful chrysalis throbbing with life. In another masterful work, “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board,” an exhausted lady-in-waiting reclines on vibrant red ground, apparently in the course of refreshing her fleshy, excessive gusto.

Stanley Hall takes its name from the University of Iowa college dorm where Kveck resided. But to reduce her work to its most accessible content—wasted party girls—is a mistake. The provocative commentaries on women and power pale next to the artistic know-how pulsing in this show. Kveck’s fascination with the grotesque surrenders to the sensuality of the beautiful.

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