Thomas Erben Gallery is pleased to present Jenny Scobel’s Women, her fourth solo exhibition with the gallery since 2001. Beginning in the early 90s, concurrent with a reemergence of the figure in contemporary painting, Scobel has persistently explored female selfhood as an ambiguous space between external identification and actual self. To this end, she has established a conceptual process, selecting anonymous faces which she often uses in multiple works, and repeatedly recombines with classically female bodies borrowed from the world of fashion and film.
Technically, Scobel’s medium is drawing, as she works in graphite on gessoed wood panels. However, the tinting of almost photorealist images with watercolor, and the application of wax as a final layer, creates a somewhat confounding hybrid between drawing, painting and photography.
The subject matter itself also proves strangely elusive. These are clearly portraits, but of whom? Backgrounds shift from landscapes and room-like settings to bold patterns, which may correspond to the clothing of the women themselves. The materiality of the carefully crafted surface draws attention to the fact that each drawing is just that: a two-dimensional, painted panel. This creates a narrow space, simultaneously two- and three-dimensional, where the women become trapped in a nonexistent depth between surface and background. The use of repeatedly collaged faces also raises the question of the depicted women’s relationship to “their” bodies, and the work as a whole. Are they free to wander from drawing to drawing, taking on bodies and settings as they see fit, or are they merely being used as building blocks by the artist?
Jenny Scobel (b. 1955, Orrville, OH) received her BFA at Colorado State University and her MFA at Pratt University, NY. Over the years, her work has been widely exhibited, with solo shows at Firecat Projects, Chicago, Michel Soskine Gallery, Madrid (both 2011); Galerie Uschi Kolb, Karlsruhe, Germany (2010); Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp (2008); Galerie der Stadt Backnang, Germany (2006). Group exhibitions include venues such as Worcester Art Museum, MA (2011); Overbeck Gesellschaft, Lübeck, Germany (2008); Cartin Collection, Hartford, CT, and Lyman Allyn Museum, London (both 2006); Galerie M+R Fricke, Düsseldorf (2005); Museum Fridericianum, Kassel (2004), to name a few. Scobel has been featured in multiple publications, including Art in America, The New York Times, Huffington Post and Time Out New York, and her work has been extensively collected. She lives and works in New York City.