Jennifer Sullivan – “Revenge Body” June 18 – Aug 15 2016
Jennifer Sullivan Revenge Body June 18 – August 22, 2016
Five Car Garage presents a new body of work by New York based artist Jennifer Sullivan.
“Revenge” takes on a new meaning in these works, as a mode of transformation and re-defining materials to make statements of empowerment rather than bitterness. In addition to works on canvas, Sullivan uses tactics of reclaiming and embellishing found objects—less traditional substrates—but keeps them close to personal experience. Humor is a tool used throughout Revenge Body to loosen gender roles and society’s mores while confronting absurdity with satire.
Brightly colored windsurfing sails inscribed with “Jane Fonda,” referencing the 1980s exercise queen, are stamped with the artist’s body parts, using her own form as an active tool of agency. A feminist response to Julian Schnabel’s sail paintings, these accessorized homages are emblazoned with emphatic symbols of new beginnings and suspended by fragmented casts of Sullivan’s hands in symbolic gestures. A series of assemblage bathroom scales are brassy, liberatory symbols of self-love, converted from scrutinizing apparatuses into enlightened sculptural forms. Improvisational menu paintings reference inner work and inner strength, “ordering in,” while in tension with idealized images of physical strength. Happiness is the Best Revenge, a fleece blanket print, is layered with scanned images of Sullivan’s cat, Queenie. These digital collages on fabric are laid on the ground of the gallery weighted by faux taxidermy cats, stand-ins for the female form and peaceful emblems of self acceptance.
The singular video work, Letter to Julian, is a reading by Sullivan of a critical letter to the artist Julian Schnabel, vocalizing issues embedded in her love/hate relationship with him—including an explanation of the article “The Confidence Gap” about the difference in confidence between the sexes, more specifically that women only feel confident when they’re perfect—in a rhetorical discussion with him about the idea that sexism plays a part in women’s internalized normative standards of beauty (off screen she has dressed as Schnabel in comedy performances, a hybrid character of himself and herself, in an attempt to try on this sense of power, confidence, and arrogance, both parodying him and wearing his persona as drag).
Sullivan uses a variety of materials with cathartic freedom to create poetic formal relationships between female experience and transformation. Lawrence Weiner said that “All art is made from anger,” but in this work Sullivan channels anger into transformative energy, with the outlook that to embrace negative emotions one can more fully embrace their whole self, finding strength in an acknowledgement of traits previously considered unacceptable. Her use of comedy also powerfully connects each work, both humourous and thick with vulnerability. Through moments of release and metamorphosis, Revenge Body exhumes the collective sexism that women live with, while living in their bodies in the world, and steps into a new path, whether or not you approve.
–Erin Nixon, June 2016
Jennifer Sullivan (b. 1978) is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist. Solo exhibitions include House Cat at Arts + Leisure, New York, NY, (2015), Big Girl Paintings, Five Car Garage, Los Angeles, CA (2014), Adult Movie, Las Cienegas Projects, Los Angeles, CA (2011), and One-Week Walden, Freight + Volume, New York, NY (2010). Sullivan has also exhibited and performed in exhibitions at MoMA, PS1, Essex Flowers, Pablo’s Birthday, 247365, Klaus Von Nichtsaggend, and Arthouse. Awards include a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center, and residencies at Skowhegan, Ox-Bow, and Yaddo. Her work has been reviewed in the NY Times, Artforum.com, and Art Papers, and her videos are included in the Geisel Library collection at the University of California in San Diego.