Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Karen Havens at FLOOD

New York artist Karen Havens exhibited work at FLOOD last month and I found her installment of paintings and sculpture to be quite profound. Unfortunately I cannot find any information about the artist and was unable to meet her when she was in town for the opening. I hope she continues her artistic pursuits as several people I've spoken with agree that her show was rather exemplary.
Below is the full review I wrote for the Mountain Xpress -- only a portion of it was printed in the paper:

In spite of the lack of titles present at this month’s FLOOD Gallery exhibit; the intention of the work is obvious. Karen Havens' solo exhibit of sculptural installations and 2D works, entitled USED, beautifully suggests the complicated relationship between the emotional being and the physical body.

The work is decidedly female. This is not to be confused with feminine. While there are some applications of pink here and there, the way Haven interprets the female body goes far beyond traditional depictions of the soft and submissive form we’ve become accustomed to in classical Western Art.

The art contains aggressive applications of paint, layers of evocative imagery, and distressed found objects. It’s as if the body and psyche of this artist has turned itself inside out for the world to inspect at close range. While the work is candid, it is not didactic or moralistic. There are no grandiose political statements to be found here. Nevertheless, the drama and assault of Haven’s work will probably turn some people off; others will identify with the artist’s sincere and unapologetic attitude.

Much of the work evokes a female psyche that struggles to make sense of pornographic imagery, memories and the objectification of the female sex. “I didn’t know you had a sister” is scrawled out on one photocopied piece. In others, photocopied erotic imagery is repeated and layered upon itself just enough that that it becomes an abstraction without obscuring the original image.

In one piece (title unavailable) cardboard boxes have been impressed with repeating circular forms of light blue and white, which at first glance appear as topographical map, satellite mages or even sonograms of embryos. Closer examination reveals that the shapes in all probability were produced with paint-slathered breasts, so one wonders if the act of the painting or it’s final product should be considered more.

All the pieces evoke a haunting and disturbed sensation like the sculpture comprised of a torn mattress cover spotted with bloodstains and cigarette burns. A multitude of plastic flowers lie in upheaval before it as if someone has placed flowers at a tombstone or alter. Bright orange circus peanuts are strewn amongst the flowers. What has happened on the mattress is left to the imagination -- the end result suggests a saddened state of a culture’s objectification around the spectacle of violence.

Another sculpture utilizes mesh pantyhose stuffed with marshmallows draped over roof tiles hammered through and through with tiny nails whose sharp ends jut out on the other side. A garland of cigarette butts along with a plastic bag filled with ashes and cig butts ornament the piece. Remarkably, the shadow cast by the sculpture reveals 3 veiled female forms marching in ceremonial procession.

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