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Annie Attridge: Hearts of Oak

Asya Geisberg Gallery
537B West 23rd Street, 212 675 7525
January 15 - February 12, 2011
Reception: Saturday, January 15, 6 - 8 PM
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Asya Geisberg Gallery is pleased to present Hearts of Oak, an exhibition of porcelain works, bronze sculpture, and charcoal drawings by British artist Annie Attridge.

Annie Attridge creates a universe of caves, mounds, entrances into flesh and exits into limbs, breasts, and flowery decadence. Her bawdy and sometimes brazen imagery explicitly contradicts the decorum of traditional porcelains, exposing the parts a petticoat would shield. The rococo curving lines of 18th century porcelain are evoked in limbs entwining, tree limbs twisting, and animal and figure amalgamations. In the intimacy and luminous delicacy within her pieces, Attridge expresses a torrent of emotion. Attridge’s lush drawings create a velvety cover of compressed charcoal, adding drama to her cavorting carnality. Her bronze works emasculate while simultaneously endowing a symbol of timelessness and strength to soft breasts and billowing sails.

The process of making porcelain is long and difficult, but Attridge’s playful pinched pieces exude a simplicity and ease. Similarly, in her bronze works, Attridge takes a complex and arduous process with a long history, and shrinks the patently megalomaniacal into toy-like scale. With “Flogging a dead horse”, instead of a super-sized statue of a general on his horse proclaiming victory in the public plaza, Attridge gives us a truly miniature pony, with a shiny breast for a hump. In “Termite Boobie”, Attridge takes gargantuan cathedral mounds where termites create a self-contained world of digestion, and turns them into another kind of symbol of nourishment. In “Love on the Rocks”, the termite mound, a colony for millions, has become a private cave for half-submerged lovers.

While porcelain originated as the expression of wealth, funded and bought by European royalty, in England it transformed into a commercial activity whose base was middle-class aspiration. The acquisition of objects in the home became more possible when ornate and elegant traditions slowly started the fall into kitsch that now is possible because of mass-production techniques. “Hearts of oak” is a Cockney expression, which in the rhyming slang of working-class British culture means “broke”. A sly nod to the traditional penury associated with contemporary artists, it is also a witty joke on the upper-class origin of the decorative figurines that sit atop mantelpieces the world over. Traditional British aristocratic referents- the hunt, gymkhana equestrian events, the private garden, refined behaviors of courting, and mythological fare-are fused with private dramas of desire and longing.

In “Your borders, your rivers, your tiny villages”, multiple figures prance and play within a maze of hedges, all on a scratched old ping-pong table. Metaphors multiply, as the landscape of the body is conflated with the arenas of play, sport, and games. Behind the charm and gaiety lies a melancholic air, where true happiness lies just out of reach, and the potential for romantic fulfillment might never be realized. Roman mythology is recycled by workshops led by Meissen and Sevres, then later copied by centuries of English hands, and then a young 21-st century lass falls in love with a neglected art, and finds new stories to tell with this privileged medium.

Born in 1975, Annie Attridge lives and works in London’s East End. With a MA from the Royal Academy, and BA in Painting from the University of Brighton, Attridge was featured in the exhibition “Grand National – Art from Great Britain” at the Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Norway, and has had exhibitions at Galerie Maurer, Frankfurt, Nettie Horn, London, and will be in the exhibition “Material Worlds” at the Contemporary Art Society, and “Belle Laide” at Danielle Arnaud Gallery, both in London. “Hearts of Oak” will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York.
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