Noma Gallery is pleased to present The Women, a group exhibition featuring the work of Lane Arthur, Jennifer Dudley and Jeffrey Stuker.
In The Women, Arthur, Dudley and Stuker retell historical narratives through the vernacular of contemporary popular media, exploring the hidden or forgotten dimensions of underdeveloped characters and settings. Television programs, Hollywood film and commercial advertising intersect with themes of antiquity and classic literature. Although nearly devoid of figuration, each body of work variously evokes the presence of a female protagonist.
Lane Arthur’s painting, Tabletop with Writing Utensils, is based on a still frame from the 2008 movie The Women, in which a woman’s hand is depicted holding a pen, preparing to write a letter. Placed strategically on the prop desk are a clock, a letter opener, a bottle of Dove brand hand lotion and a sheet of stationary, the letterhead altered to read ‘Lane Arthur.’ Accompanying Tabletop with Writing Utensils are three paintings based on extended and reconfigured captions from Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction catalogs, describing in detail the assorted features of antique desks. Although the text paintings posses a simplicity of technical form, they are applied word-by-word with lightly painted drop shadows that suggest cutting-and-pasting from the original source, in a gesture similar to a ransom note.
In two large oil paintings by Jennifer Dudley, a familiar set from the HBO program, True Blood, is harmoniously recast as the gallery for an authentic American artifact, a gilt-wood mirror. I am Vampire is based on a True Blood set photograph of the hearth in primary cast member, Vampire Bill’s pre-Civil War Louisiana home. The same image of the hearth appears again in Girandole Mirror (1820-1825), as a reflection on the convex surface of the antique mirror. In approaching these two works, the trompe-l'œil painting of the mirror and the nearly life-size depiction of the set, the viewer is ultimately cast into the role of vampire.
In his large format prints of digitally rendered advertisements, Jeffrey Stuker presents an invented brand of women’s eyeliner, Tes Yeux Verts, in response to Charles Baudelaire’s poem, Le Poison. In these impeccably detailed images, Stuker calls to mind Baudelaire’s inspiration for the poem, the boulevard actress Marie Daubrun, whose liquid-reflective eyes the poet describes as a most powerful poison. Stuker does not interpret “poison” as the hackneyed danger of the “femme fatale,” but, rather, defines it as the literal poison included in 19th century cosmetic formulae, as well as a metaphor for the peril of the individual who confirms himself in the face of specular images. Atropa belladonna, the beauty-poison that acts to dilate the pupils, can be found in the ingredients list printed vertically on Stuker's featured cosmetics box.