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  • Author: Lauren Guilford
  • Date: FEBRUARY 23, 2023
  • Format: DIGITAL

PICK OF THE WEEK: Becky Kolsrud

Morán Morán

Becky Kolsrud, "Evergreen," 2023 (detail). Image courtesy of Morán Morán.

Naked, decapitated women were a favorite amongst the macho surrealists of the 1930s, projecting their desire and power onto phantom breasts and bellies. The female figures in Becky Kolsrud’s surrealist paintings might also be missing heads and appendages, but they are ghosts and muses of a different kind. In Ghosts of the Boulevard (2023), a gaggle of headless women perch leisurely on a lush hillside, appearing blissfully blind, as if they never needed their heads in the first place. The painting alludes to various art historical subjects and works depicting nude women such as Matisse’s The Dance, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, (in other words, artworks commonly associated with “the male gaze”). The artist employs a color palette that feels overly saturated, artificial, manic even—colors Kolsrud refers to as “retail primaries,” shades and hues embedded in our psyche as consumer capitalism invades our retinas. Two paintings installed in catty-corner positions depict gated storefront window displays with mannequins adorned in various fads and fashions. Petrified and haunted, there is something eerie and enchanting about Kolsrud’s floating heads; their expressions are simultaneously blank and self-possessed, engaging and isolated. The Seinfeld episode pops into mind in which Elaine finds her doppelganger in the form of a department store mannequin, leading to a series of public sexual harassments causing her to steal the mannequin. The figures in the two paintings feel as though they are side-eying one another, or exchanging secret knowledge through the bars of their retail prisons. If I look at any of their bobbing heads for too long, I’m afraid my face will suddenly appear like Elaine’s mannequin nightmare.

In the epically large painting Evergreen (2023), Kolsrud’s grid motif takes the form of a sprawling cemetery on a hillside, a sublime landscape overrun with headstones stacked in neat rows that crawl endlessly into the distance. Pink severed limbs crop up between the graves like splintered yoga positions—spines twisting and thighs planking for eternity. A fleshy pink sun vibrates at the landscape’s horizon line evoking the history of sublime California landscape painting with a sense of irony. Time collapses in the ambiguity of the sun, which appears to be rising and setting, straddling the past and present. This spatial-temporal disruption and psychological tension permeate Kolsrud’s fragmented bodies of seemingly contradictory female forms that are simultaneously trapped and emerging.