The Gallery @, Los Angeles, California, USA
February 1, 2020 – March 15, 2020
The Gallery @ presents an exhibition of two Los Angeles-based artists from different generations and backgrounds. While both Zoé Blue M. and Mark Williams make work that’s formally very distinct and complex, this exhibition reveals similarities in the way each artist explores figuration, narrative and tradition through their nuanced visual vocabularies and individual styles.
Zoé Blue M.’s recent paintings can be seen as fragmented scenes from a story or play, as her characters are often pictured on the precipice of a decisive action. At first glance, the paintings appear to be vibrating from their glowing hues of paint, dizzying array of patterns, and the sharply exaggerated smiles worn by the performers. Just beyond this surface lingers a more somber atmosphere of longing and deep-seated suffering within her characters as they struggle to find resolve in their sometimes troubling situations. The figures in Retroactive Matriarchy, as in many of her works, are the result of Blue M.’s ongoing research into portrayals of East Asian female bodies throughout time as seen in traditional theater, folklore, fashion, and pop culture. In this scene, the women link arms with one another in an act of solidarity, working to undo the stigmas they bear as players in a patriarchal family.
The overwhelming sense of tension and theatricality in this new body of work is the result of Blue M.’s strategic use of symbolism that embellishes each storyline. In Field Play, the primary figure is based on the goalie or keeper of a soccer team, a crucial position that often carries the burden of either being hailed as the team’s saving grace or scapegoated as the loser. The stylish keeper pictured here is seen sporting a pair of vintage Ed Hardy cowboy boots decorated with the French designer’s signature Japanese-inspired designs. These loaded boots are a nod to Blue M.’s own multicultural heritage as well as the iconic brand’s complicated use of cultural appropriation. Hidden throughout the paintings are many more symbols that carry multiple coded meanings, asking viewers to look a little closer and approach each detail with an open mind and a discerning eye.
Mark Williams is an artist working out of ECF Art Center in Inglewood, California. In his own words:
“My artwork is very important to me. I like drawing and painting—well, it makes me busy. It makes me feel good. I paint different houses I’ve lived in and interesting people I see. And also my jams. Earth Wind and Fire is my favorite, and also The Three Ladies The Supremes. I do know my jams.”
Williams’s works on view were made over the last decade and represent a focused selection within his expansive oeuvre. Seen as a whole, they paint a picture of an artist who makes art as a way to honor and remember the world he lives in, each new work adding another layer of intention and meaning. A distinguishing trait of Williams’s paintings is how different colors of paint rarely overlap and instead maintain a thin white border between blocks of color. He’s been painting in this style for over 20 years, which is largely influenced by his practice of writing down lists before he begins painting. A few of these lists are included in the exhibition and represent a composite of song lyrics, characters from retro TV shows, friends and family, and things seen in everyday life. Williams then pulls names and ideas from them to paint in his idiosyncratic voice. The pictures on view show couplings of people that are each portrayed in a similar fashion, framed from the mid-torso up, usually smiling and gazing directly at the viewer. In some cases one or both of the figures are painted in profile, and curiously some only have facial hair instead of lips or no mouth at all. The titles of the paintings provide some insight into who these people might be, Mork and Mindy Uh huh, or what kind of relationship they share, They’re Only Just Taking a Picture, giving the viewer an access point into Williams’s universe.
Zoé Blue M. (b. 1994, Los Angeles) lives and works in Los Angeles. Blue M. received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and has attended residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Anderson Ranch, Texas. Recent solo exhibitions include Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles (forthcoming) and In Lieu, Los Angeles (2019) and group exhibitions include Another Scorcher, Martha’s Contemporary, Austin; Three Oh One, Memorial Hall Gallery, Rhode Island; and ZIP Art Show, New York (all 2019).
Mark Williams (b. 1966, Los Angeles) has been a part of ECF Art Centers for over two decades. Williams has been included in recent exhibitions at Good Luck Gallery, Los Angeles (2017); DAC Gallery Los Angeles (2016); and Washington Reid Gallery, Culver City (2015). Since 1968, the ECF Art Centers have provided adults with developmental disabilities a place to explore their creativity and freedom of expression. At ECF’s five art studios located throughout Los Angeles County, artists with developmental disabilities are encouraged to communicate their personal and creative vision.