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Francesca Lo Russo, We Stretch and Curl in Light, and Bathe in Your Hot Bright Waters, Listening for you, O, Cumbre Vieja


31 Grand
143 Ludlow Street, between Rivington and Stanton, 212-228-0901
East Village / Lower East Side
February 14 - March 15, 2008
Reception: Thursday, February 14, 7 - 9 PM
Web Site

31GRAND is pleased to present its first solo show of paintings and works on paper by Francesca Lo Russo.

In Francesca Lo Russo’s new paintings, humanity lolls in nightmarish landscapes, doomed to the indifference of the universe or fellow man’s own terrible potential. She plays upon the cathartic relief, even pleasure, that fear incites by making us feel more alive through confronting death. Yet this sense of vitality is subversive, as we find ourselves detached voyeurs to the characters in the paintings, much as we are detached from nature in general, and the media’s portrayal of real disaster.

Her figures sunbathe, hold hands, become deluged in music, or drink champagne, seeming painfully still and almost unaffected by their broken, doomed environments. They are Sisyphus-like, and smile in the face of an absurd world whose oceans could swallow entire populations without warning. The paintings are born in the aloof angst that this existential humanism implies, and imbued with imagery of modern greenhouse anxiety.

Lo Russo paints with assiduous detail, seeming to fill a compulsive need to cover every square inch of her surfaces with information. Her process is meditative, almost anachronistic; painting each blade of grass, each stitch in a quilt, each tiny leaf in a monstrous topiary. The narratives are spun in this process, in the insular, claustrophobic realms she creates. She then smothers these details with heavy, dark, enamel-like glazes, locking them in place, into a tight and inescapable web. Her paintings are clotted with glossy black but punctuated by acid greens, SOS orange, and caustic yellow.

The resulting images read something like film stills, where narratives are implied but are ambiguous, frozen. They are similar in mood to Dario Argento’s neon-tinted horror fables and Alejandro Jodorowky’s flagrant, often violent spiritual journeys. She draws upon surreal personal experience while traveling; she was cured of an intestinal virus by a voodoo priestess in Haiti and sang in bizarre Pentecostal services in the mountains of rural Ecuador.

Lo Russo completed the vast majority of these new works in an intense three month period of isolation in an attic in Texas. She is self taught as an artist and lives in Brooklyn.

NOTE: Cumbre Vieja is a massive volcanic ridge in the Canary Islands. So fractured by previous eruptions, it could break off completely with any new activity. And though it’s real threat is hard to determine, some scientists say the breakage could cause a megatsunami that would could destroy major cities in Europe, Africa, and the United States’ East Coast.
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