Venetia Kapernekas Gallery is pleased to present Suddenly…Summer, an exhibition by New York-based artist Kathryn Garcia. Curated by Sarvia Jasso, this is the first installment of a series, where artists are invited to consider the aesthetics and fabrication of madness in art.
In 1922, psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn published Artistry of the Mentally Ill, a detailed analysis of drawings by patients in the hospital at the University of Heidelberg. The importance of this book not only lies in his interpretive analysis, but in the emphasis on the work’s aesthetic qualities. Correlating mental illnesses with distinct visual codes of representation, this groundbreaking study eventually caused outsider artists to gain recognition within certain artistic circles, including those of Jean Debuffet, Max Ernst and the Surrealists. For example, Ernst’s collage entitled Oedipus is said to have been based on a drawing by schizophrenic German artist August Natterer. Surrealists were captivated by the patients’ freedom from reason. As a result, Surrealists appropriated comparable stylistic characteristics and motifs that became emblematic of their work. This appropriation, in turn, sparked interest in the artist’s personal life, continuing to propagate the artist’s cult-like following.
In a similar vein, Garcia’s new drawings blur the line between artist and autobiography, fact and fiction, by manipulating the tensions between them. Meticulous and loose lines create figures that, upon closer inspection, reveal tiny orifices or sexual organs. Inspired by the artist Franz Xavier Messerschmidt, deemed mad by psychologists, Garcia simulates ‘insanity’ in a number of unnerving self-portraits. These drawings are part of a larger body of work in which Garcia explores how the fetish of madness arises in post-modernity, as seen in recent Hollywood films.
To accompany the drawings, Garcia will also exhibit a video montage using the 1959 film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Suddenly, Last Summer, which is based on the play by Tennessee Williams. Taylor’s character, Catherine, suffers from “dementia praecox”, a mental illness that supposedly causes her to “babble” about her cousin Sebastian’s secret life, more specifically, his latent homosexuality. Combining scenes of Catherine in various guises of insanity with moments of total clarity, Garcia constructs a seductive and unnerving interpretation of madness. For example, a close-up of Taylor as she falls asleep is suddenly disrupted with a hysterical cry for help. Madness, as seen through the eyes of the other, manifests itself in this beautiful creature.
Kathryn Garcia was born in Los Angeles and currently lives and works in New York. Recent exhibitions include: Can’t Rape the Willing, Second Floor, Brooklyn; From NY With Love, Candela Gallery, Puerto Rico; Made for More, chime & co., Los Angeles; Anthology, Otero Plassart, Los Angeles; Etrangetes Gifts, Jail Gallery, Los Angeles; The Left Hand of Darkness, The Project, New York; Brooklyn Is Burning, Monkey Town, Brooklyn; Read My Lips, Peres Projects, Berlin; The Wu-Tang / googolplex Show (Congress), GBE@passerby, New York; Put It In Your Mouth / I’ll see you on the dark side of the prune, Rivington Arms, New York.