Tentative Closing Reception: TBD
Arts+Leisure is excited to announce Mamita, an exhibition of recent paintings by Bernadette Despujols. In her first showing at the gallery, she presents a body of expressive, psychologically penetrating portraits and compositions inspired by her native Venezuela, underscored by a vigorous, intensely physical technique. Recalling the work of Lucian Freud and other members of the London School, the alternating passages of ridged, thick impasto paint and luminescent washes within Despujols’ heavily textured surfaces project their own narrative, charting the contours of flesh and human expression with an almost aggressive materiality. In contrast to the immediacy of her practice, her subjects are enigmatic, and their averted gazes complicate the viewers place; in Nude 1 and Nude 2, we are voyeurs, imposing upon the privacy of a sleeping woman, while in the face of Image of Home 5, we become powerless witnesses to a scene of brutality and torture.
Much of Despujols’ work focuses on the intersection of perceptions of women by themselves and society, as well as the changing nature of sex and intimacy in contemporary life. In her own words, she queries “how a woman, by virtue of being a woman, makes others uncomfortable”; in Mamita, she transforms female nudity into a sort of declaration of femininity and womanhood, underscored by her unabashed displays of genitalia and sexuality. In Nude 4, the locus shifts from the female presence to the palpably uncomfortable relationship of the anonymous male and female figures. Sharing a half-hearted embrace, the far older man leers at the female subject, whose face bears a mix of apathy and disgust; meanwhile, a tattoo of a dolphin on her lower belly lends cynical undertones, forcing the viewer to question the character of intimacy and sex, as well as the existence of one without the other and its transactional elements.
Mamita includes several paintings inspired by her native Venezuela, ranging from portraits of family and locals to images of political violence and repression. As in her nudes, the subjects of these paintings appear detached, oblivious to the artist’s gaze. They are primarily shown asleep or at rest, states of vulnerability that allow Despujols to catalyze her subtle balance of probing psychological observation and vivid, quasi-forensic examination of the physicality of the body.
Bernadette Despujols was born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. She studied Architecture at the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), where she graduated with honors in 2007. Soon after, she continued her education at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she took classes in architecture, cultural exchange, morphology and anatomy before beginning her endeavors in art making. Despujols taught Architectonic Design at the School of Architecture at the Universidad Central de Venezuela before moving to the US to pursue her MFA in Visual Arts at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) in 2010. Despujols’ artistic practice is highly expansive, as she incorporates a wide range of different media, including painting, sculpture, video and installation.