Figura considers the ever-changing function of the figure in art. Beyond the resemblance of a person in real life, the figure’s role, across time and cultures, has constantly evolved through socio-political, philosophical, and religious influences. Literary critic Erich Auerbach’s “Figura” (1938) investigates the history of the figure’s definitions and contours: from Ancient Greece to Rome, “figure” took on an abstracted quality that contrasted with its concrete sense, while in the modern period, its realist or mimetic sense came to the fore. This contrast between the allegorical or symbolic and the real is integral to our understanding of the figure today.
Figura is an exhibition of collage, painting, wall-based sculptural works, and works on paper by Kamrooz Aram, Rafal Bujnowski, Sojourner Truth Parsons, Lady Pink, and Idelle Weber. These works embody, in varying ways and to differing degrees, the changes in the signification of the represented subject. As if viewed through a prism, their use of repetition, dissonance, refraction, and displacement presents bodies as sensuous and concrete, on one the hand, and transformative, historicized, and abstracted on the other.
Kamrooz Aram’s collages on linen and paper recast ancient figurative statuary within in geometric forms. The artist is interested in how Eastern and, in particular, Persian antiquities have been traditionally photographed and how the conventions of their presentation have informed the understanding of them. Reworking his subjects within modernist formats, he produces iconographic contrasts that are at once dissonant and visually compelling.
Rafal Bujnowski’s series of portraits—inspired by “The Last Day of Summer” (1958), an art film by Polish director Tadeusz Konwick that is full of longing, tension, and silences—has both a sense of reversal and erasure. Bujnowski’s black-and-white oil paintings combine a filmic realism – not unlike the “day for night” shooting technique of classical cinema – with pronounced brush strokes, as if the artist had painted them in one take. He subjects appear as after-images or spirit photographs, as hovering somewhere between different worlds.
Sojourner Truth Parsons’ figures’ minimal forms engender a visceral and emotional subjectivity, while her marks and brushstrokes highlight the process of her painting. Her paintings incorporate psychic dramas where the drive for unity and completion is balanced by the pleasures of a dynamic multiplicity. Parsons’ paintings have a powerful sense of narrative intimacy, where we, as viewers, are witnesses to highly-personal yet fictional slices of life.
Lady Pink’s “Brick Goddess” (2019) depicts a Golem-like, amazonian figure fashioned from bricks. On a podium, next to a castle’s ramparts, the painting’s subject appears like a sensuous Athena. The painting was originally produced as an illustration for a mythical story in Heavy Metal magazine.The artist also presents a series of vivid, pink-hued paintings on carved wood that embody a wide range of styles and content, from classical portraiture, to vintage ads and cartoons. Lady Pink’s works compress and distill historical and contemporary narratives within the artist’s accessible and distinctive visual language developed through her influential work in the worlds of graffiti and muralism.
Idelle Weber’s silhouetted figures, sometimes falling though space, infuse a Pop aesthetic with a dynamic minimalism. Her works on paper, acetate, and in plastic reflect and refract the post-war world of work and play. Her scenes are snapshots of decisive moments of the everyday that have been pared down to their essentials. Weber’s body of work is an elemental testament to the contrasts and contradictions of the American experience.
About the Artists
“Kamrooz Aram’s work is rooted in the history and practice of painting, which he expands to include collage, photography, sculptural works and exhibition design. His work engages the complicated relationship between Modernism and ornament, often with reference to non-western ornamental art, which he sees as a parallel to painting. Aram’s work sets out to renegotiate the art historical hierarchy that places these ornamental artforms in a category of value beneath fine art.”Green Gallery, Dubai
Kamrooz Aram (1978, Shiraz, Iran) holds a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and an MFA from Columbia University, New York. He is based in New York City. Recent exhibitions include: “RELATIONS: Diaspora and Painting,” PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montreal, Canada; “Some Mysterious Process: 50 Years of Collecting International Art,” Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; “Desorientalismos,” Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain (all 2020); “Arabesque,” Green Art Gallery, Dubai (solo)(2019); “An Object, A Gesture, A Décor,” FLAG Art Foundation, NY (solo); “FOCUS: Kamrooz Aram,” The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX (solo); “Ancient Blue Ornament,” Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, GA (solo)(all 2018); and “Ornament for Indifferent Architecture,” Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Belgium (solo)(2017).
Rafal Bujnowski takes a conceptual approach to painting, video, objects, and actions to explore the role of art and artists within broader social and political systems. His work reveals tensions between the process of artistic production and an artwork’s consumption.
Rafal Bujnowski (1974, Wadowice, Poland) lives and works in Warsaw. He studied architecture at the Kraków University of Technology (1993-1995); and graphic arts at the Academy of Fine Art, Kraków, Poland (1995-2000). Selected exhibitions include: “Wild at Heart. Portrait and Self-Portrait in Poland After 1989,” Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; “Thinking Ahead,” Erna Hecey, Luxembourg (all 2018); “What is Abstraction?” Foundation Stefana Gierowskiego, Warsaw, Poland (2017); ”L’arte differente: MOCAK al MAXXI,” MAXXI, National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome, Italy (2016-2017); Raster, Warsaw, Poland (solo); “May 2066,” National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (solo); “wallpaper.linocut,” Berlinskej Model, Prague, Czech Republic (solo)(all 2016); Neuer Kunstverein Wien Vienna, Austria, with Michał Budny (2011); “Painting: Process and Expansion. From the 1950s till Now,” MUMOK, Vienna, Austria (2010); Kunstverein Duesseldorf, Germany (solo)(2005); and Art in General, New York, US (2004).
Sojourner Truth Parsons
Sojourner Truth Parsons’ paintings have a powerful sense of narrative intimacy, where we, as viewers, experience highly-personal yet fictional slices of life. Like classical film noirs, her works combine dark surfaces, shadows, and fractured personas in a mix of illusion and desire.
Sojourner Truth Parsons (Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1984) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, NS, Canada. Solo exhibitions include: “Milk river,” Various Small Fires, Seoul, South Korea; “Sex and love with a psychologist,” Foxy Production, New York, NY (both 2020); “Holding Your Dog At Night,” Oakville Galleries, Oakville, ON, Canada (2017); “Dolphin, take me with you,” Downs & Ross, New York, NY (both 2017); “Crying in California,” Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; “Heartbeats Accelerating,” Tomorrow, New York, NY (both 2016); “Truth Is My Butterfly,” Mulherin, NewYork, NY (2014); and “Seven Songs,” Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects, Toronto, ON, Canada (2013).
Recent group exhibitions include: “This Sacred Vessel (PT. 1),” Arsenal Contemporary, New York, NY; “Staying alive,” Lyles and King, New York, NY (both 2020); and “No Ordinary Love,” Galerie Sultana, Paris, France (2016).
Lady Pink was a central figure in the New York City hip hop graffiti movement in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. While still at high school, she painted graffiti on subway trains and began exhibiting paintings in galleries. Her paintings are informed in part by her experience as a woman artist within the male-dominated graffiti world. They combine the immediacy of the graffiti medium with historical and often feminist themes. She has collaborated with the artist Jenny Holzer on paintings that combine Holzer’s poetic phrases with Lady Pink’s rich, vibrant style.
Lady Pink (1964, Ambato, Ecuador) grew up in New York City and is based in upstate New York. She is a featured artist in the ground-breaking hip hop film “Wild Style” (1982). At the age of 21, she had her first solo exhibition, at Moore College of Art, Philadelphia. She has exhibited at MoMA, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and MOCA, Los Angeles. Her work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Groningen Museum, Holland.
Idelle Weber’s figures, often silhouettes on vivid backgrounds, have been associated with the Pop movement, although the artist’s depictions of male-dominated work and social spaces and of athletic women afford her work a more pronounced socio-political edge than most Pop art. In her later work, Weber shifted styles, using a photo-realist technique to depict the detritus of urban landscapes.
Idelle Weber (Chicago, IL, 1932 – Los Angeles, CA, 2020) held a BFA and MFA from UCLA. In 1956 her work was exhibited in the MoMA, New York, exhibition “Recent Drawings USA.” By the early 1960s, she exhibited widely at venues including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the American Federation of Arts, and the Dwan Gallery. Her work is included in public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Harvard Art Museums. Weber’s work was highlighted in the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968 (2010-2011).