The German theologian Rudolf Otto coined the term “numinous” as an extension of the sublime within the framework of phenomenology. Mysterium tremendum et fascinans is Otto’s own description of the numinous which loosely translates to the inexplicable mystery which comprises of both terror, or Tremendum, but also a potent fascination, or Fascinans.
This suite of ten new paintings by Whitney Bedford represents her latest exploration into a larger body of work exploring the desert landscape and ships at sea. Conceptually interlinked by a profound fascination with the histories of painting, theories of the sublime and a personal relationship to the artist’s own surroundings, these paintings share moments both literally and figuratively.
While the paintings on view in the gallery are individually created and executed, pairs of paintings transpose particular colors and gestures between them. This in turn elucidates a formal and visual connection while also indicating something as seemingly different as a ship at sea (rollicking and endless) versus a desert landscape (desolate and profound) – could and may certainly be – intimately linked to the Mysterium. As such, regardless of the subject matter, these scenarios painted with a combination of ink and oil paint on flat-colored backgrounds are a contemporaneous representation of the visceral experiences that nature can provide through the lens of the human experience.
Bedford’s 2018 painting All Nighter harkens back to the activated shipwreck artworks of JMW Turner with a sail-less schooner battling the sea in an all out effort to not capsize. The ship’s masts and rigging are rendered meticulously in ink, while the sea waves and boat hull are rendered with confident brushy swaths of oil paint. The background, appearing under gallery light is a pale greenish blue, but when not lit glows in the dark. This phosphorescent effect – when activated – changes the title of the work to All Nighter (In the Dark) adding a sinister yet intriguing desire to experience the painting in an alternate scenario not normally found in a gallery setting.
Whitney Bedford (lives and works in Los Angeles) received her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2003. She was awarded a Krasner Pollock Grant in 2015 was the winner of the 2001 UCLA Hammer Museum Drawing Biennale. She also received a Fulbright Graduate Fellowship from Hochschule der Kuenste, Berlin in 1999. She has been included in group exhibitions at the Jewish Museum, New York; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. Bedford’s work is included in the Jumex Collection, Mexico City, Mexico; the De La Cruz Collection, Miami, Florida, USA; The Saatchi Collection, London, England; the Francois Pinault Collection, Paris, France; the Eric Decelle Collection, Brussels, Belgium; the Collection Ginette Moulin/Guillaume Houze, Paris, France; and The Marciano Foundation Art Collection, Los Angeles, California, USA.
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