British painter Lucy Stein presents her second solo show in the US at our gallery. Her new series of paintings, drawings and collages goes right into the heart of excessive spheres and dilemmas of daily routines, of washing away sins and subsequent absolutions, – “binge’n’purge”. The show touches motifs of drifting and drowning, of heroic ‘under water’ women and men, of the power of achievement versus the romantic potentials of ‘becoming stone’.
Stein’s new work circle targets from different angles. “Valium and Advocaat for Breakfast”, one of the central paintings, shows a 1950s styled woman, consuming drugs in a nightly scenario while a ghostly guy in the vaguely sketched uniform of a male nurse or delivery-man pours liquor over her. In bold letters its spells out Breakfast under her bare legs, suggesting that the dose of valium she might be grasping in her clasped hand, is the start of a shady day. – “Advocaat is a creamy yellow egg drink, sickly sweet and lekker and a perfect motif for a terrifying land of milk and honey. The gooey painter in her cotton woolly bubble.”(LS)
The loss of control panel is side-lined by the drawing series “Are you there God? My heart’s as numb as a potato”. In these five bathroom scenes an alter ego of the artist is grotesquely approaching the morning rituals while she is talking to God through the shower handle. -“This is a girl performing her daily ablutions, except for there is something not right about the whole thing, and she isn’t brushing her teeth before breakfast, she is brushing them after bingeing and purging, – an exercise that when undertaken thoroughly, the toilet roll between legs, urine dribbling down the inner thigh, the wretchedness followed by the opiate rush (throwing up gives you an opiate rush, scientifically proven and is therefore very addictive)... followed by the hot shower and washing away of sins, the self reflection in the mirror -, all eventually adds up to a feeling of purity and baptism.”
The challenges of pool exercise and exposure – a recurring motif in Stein’s work – has a newcomer in the motif of ‘becoming Phelps’. Playing on the celebrated features of US Uebermensch swimmer Michael Phelps, the two intimate paintings constituting the duo of “Becoming Phelps” and “Phelps” are unusual in their eclectically contrary styles: One being a neo-expressively abstracted (male) nude executed with a thick impasto of hair and oil paint, – the other a sharp-lined figuration of the swimmer’s pale skinned stature. – “Phelps” is basically a bit of a bore, a palette cleanser visually, but significant in relation to “Becoming Phelps” where he is sort of in a chrysalis and bursting forth, and hairy, but to streamline of course, they have to get rid of their hair. Like Hannah Wilke I am not afraid to admit man envy.”
In the prominent Bacon-ish painting “Heavy Petting” one sees ‘Simonetta’ (Vespucci, model for Botticelli’s Venus and tragic muse) and ‘Phelps’ in an ecstatic embrace in the more mundane setting of a municipal pool (every pool in Britain included a “No Heavy Petting” in its list of do’s and don’ts until recently). Simonetta has a re-appearance in the painting “The Oceanic Feeling”, where one sees her voluptuous body from the back, sparsely covered by a yellow blouse or rain coat, “she is just delicious and wanting to get back in the water”.
The painting “A part of your world” shows “the statue of the prince that falls to the bottom of the sea to be looked after and envied by Ariel in Disney’s little mermaid. “A part of your world” is obviously the famous song from the film and this is me being terribly witty about wanting, like Ariel, to be a part of the world of rigorous men (and women!) of stone, but loving under water and unwilling to lose my voice to find my legs.”
A group of drawings presented in a vitrine “include lots of ‘Simonetta’ and mention again the concept of the “underwater women,” (or “the drowning woman” as Satre called the volatile characters that he was always attracted to, the utter opposites of Simone de Beauvoir, though she too was not averse to munching on valiums from time to time.) During the last years of her life, talking to Marilyn Monroe was apparently like “talking to someone under water”, so heavily was she self-medicating.” “The drawings are getting closer to finding a formal language without words which is where I want to go from now.”
A new catalogue on Lucy Stein: Balsamic Injections published by BROADWAY 1602, Gimpel Fils and Galerie Martin van Zomeron in Fall 2008 with a special Edition is available during the show.