Thierry Goldberg Projects is proud to present Zabriskie Point, new work by ALISON BLICKLE. Inspired by the aesthetic of the desert scenes in Michaelangelo Antonioni's film, in which a couple drive into Death Valley and have a mystical experience, the paintings depict solitary females, nude or partially clothed, in semi-lush, semi-desiccated landscapes. Blickle's own trip into the California Desert to see Zabriskie Point last year furthered her fascination for wild unadulterated environments, leading her to make this sequence of images, which explores the human longing for union with nature, and questions the possibility of the desire for transcendence.
In Augurs, a figure sits upright with her back to viewers, calling to mind Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich. Yet while there exists in Blickle's work a romantic belief in that "all-embracing and deeply fulfilling world" of natural beauty, as she herself says, the paintings also challenge that very belief. The brushwork creates a texture in the paint that both dazzles, and at the same time insists on its own flatness. The landscapes are seductive in their vividness, but also suspiciously opulent and psychedelic, if not unnatural. Viewers, like the figures in the paintings, are continually confronting the limits of their experience with these images of nature, hitting up against the possibility of escaping into an unspoiled wilderness. The artist's portrayal of the individual's encounter with nature is thus no longer straightforward and harmonious, but rather, tinged with self-consciousness and irony.
In many of the paintings, the land is transfused with an extreme brightness, pivoting between the harshly stark and the magically radiant. When it is not an overabundance of light that renders the scene ambiguous, it is sunset colors, like, for instance, in Ascribed to Signs, where the pigments call to mind the alluring Californian landscape, while teetering on the edge of the fantastical. A sun, absent from the sky, appears as a reflection on the sea, abnormally bright, while pinkish scratches and abstract forms resembling stairs appear on the canvas, giving the scene a surreal quality. Once more, these details gesture toward an environment that, like the figures that dwell in them, is difficult to determine, at once alienating and alluring, real and unreal.
In Wish you were Here, a lithe woman with long limbs in a white bathing suit stands upright, fore-grounded by a bed of flowers. The softness of the figure's contours and the smoothness of the brushwork bring painters like John Currin to mind. While the opulence of the colors and the simplicity of the rendering border on parody, the sky, as in Blickle's other paintings, is complicated with diamond-like formations. A feeling of tension is created between the realistic, the representational, and the abstract. As a result, the paintings exist somewhere between the fanciful, the facetious, and the meaningful.
And so, while the paintings portray the desert as a place where one can "be free, to explore and experiment, and to be completely removed from the confines and rules of society," as the artist remarks, this very locus and symbol of freedom becomes something that risks being secluded to the realm of the imaginary. One is left to wonder whether the desire for a genuine and sustainable connection with the natural world is just another pipe dream?
Alison Blickle was born in San Diego, California, in 1976 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Hunter College and a BFA from California College of the Arts. She has exhibited at Deitch Projects, New York; Richard Heller, Los Angeles; Kinz Tillou & Feigen, New York; Adobe Books, San Francisco; and Parlour, New York. Zabriskie Point will be her first solo exhibition in New York.