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Dana Louise Kirkpatrick: Zugzwang

PRESS RELEASE

Los Angeles, CA (November 3, 2014) — KM Fine Arts is pleased to present ZUGZWANG, a solo exhibition of new paintings and mixed media works by Dana Louise Kirkpatrick, on view from November 8, 2014 to January 17, 2015 at the gallery’s West Hollywood location at 814 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, November 8 from 7-10 pm.
 
An avid reader of Dante, Shakespeare, and Toni Morrison, Dana Louise Kirkpatrick’s paintings reference literature as well as elements of Modern art—in particular German and Neo-Expressionism. The title of the exhibition, “Zugzwang,” refers to an inescapable move in chess, one with damaging personal effect. Many of the figures in Kirkpatrick’s work are often surreal depictions of the artist herself. Her work and confessional visual language, inspired and influenced by confessional artists Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, grows from her fascination with, and empathy for, the constant existential duel between the isolated individual and the shared awareness of the group.
 
As critic Doug McClemont writes in “Drawing Out Dignity: Poetry and Justice in the Work of Dana Louise Kirkpatrick,” his essay for the catalog accompanying the exhibition, “Dana Louise Kirkpatrick empathizes with mankind. She goes down the rabbit hole and comes up with clues as to what it means to be human. In depicting our collective experiences—from disappointment to elation—the artist amasses universal truths. Fearlessly, she gives them form. To experience a painting by the artist is to witness the essence of things.” 

McClemont continues: “Kirkpatrick’s painterly works are handsome, gritty, passionate, and resolutely hopeful. The artist is an alchemist who presents symbols and figures that resound with a kind of effortless defiance. Primitive, Picassco-esque visages bleed and bray. A bull, with its fleshy tongue in the air, seems blissfully unaware as arrows come toward him. A doll can only be howling, his mouth a black void, arms outstretched. Sonny Liston takes a punch in the ring from Muhammad Ali and hovers a foot above the bottom edge of the canvas. An angel hangs upside down, its tarnished halo still attached. Life, it would appear, is a battle to maintain one’s self-esteem. And Kirkpatrick’s characters succeed despite the odds. From Boxers to Batman, Mammies to Mona Lisa, Hell’s Angels to harlots, Kirkpatrick’s paintings are inhabited by dogged, dog-eared characters, drawn with dignity. They’ve found their torment. They’re aristocrats.”

 

 

DRAWN OUT DIGNITY

Poetry and Justice in the Work of Dana Louise Kirkpatrick.

by Doug McClemont

Dana Louise Kirkpatrick empathizes with mankind. She goes down the rabbit hole and comes up with clues as to what it means to be human. In depicting our collective experiences—from disappointment to elation—the artist amasses universal truths. Fearlessly, she gives them form. To experience a painting by the artist is to witness the essence of things.

Kirkpatrick’s fine tuned sense of compassion is matched only by her artistic daring. The paintings and drawings might challenge the audience, but they stimulate and make us less cynical in the end. Smarter, even. Kirkpatrick muses,
“If people don’t look at the world, nothing changes.” By sharing the difficult aspects of life, perhaps they’ll be easier to conquer. In that regard, Kirkpatrick is presenting a pipe dream of sorts. The title of the exhibition, “Zugzwang,” refers to an inescapable move in chess, one with damaging personal effect. Racism, religious myth, and sexist stereotypes, are just grist for her daily mill. Somehow she renders these loaded subjects as handsome and poetic.

It certainly isn’t butterflies and rainbows in Kirkpatrick’s painted universe, but her own version of beauty exists, for those who seek it. The flotsam and jetsam of human existence are portrayed in the characters, letters and codes that populate the paintings. She has developed a profound style and inimitable voice using a visual alphabet of her own devising. Milk. Grenades. Guitars. Bones. Bibles. Bitcoin. Beer. The artist refers to the recurring symbols in the paintings as “my survival code.”

To create a new work, the prolific Kirkpatrick activates the space of the canvas, first with charcoal to create the confident black outlines which become the painting’s structure. They are intuitive, not premeditated. A figure or object is frequently the starting point, and snippets of overheard conversation or nearby objects are included in the crowded narrative. The artist is a kind of conductor of her own visual orchestra. In turn, Kirkpatrick rewards us for our courage
in accompanying her to some difficult places. Her paintings are compelling enough that the more time one spends with them, the more prized the journey becomes. It’s a drawn out process and no easy feat. Take for example the paintings that examine the historic African-American experience in the United States. We see in her 6-ft. tall Mammies, African-American cooks and famous boxers not anguish but pride. Nobility is never far away, despite one’s plight. The paintings bring to mind the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” Although Fitzpatrick is Caucasian and female, the paintings are, like a vast majority of her work, clearly self-portraits. They are at once defiant and self-deprecating, soulful and scrupulous. Kirkpatrick never uses an eraser and leaves no room for lies.

The crucified Christ is a subject Kirkpatrick often revisits. The artist’s forlorn father manages to exude a kind of pride despite his plight. In Tall Boy Food Stamps he is depicted on a baby blue cross sans loincloth. Michael Stewart vs.
the Mockingbird Kick Start The Motor (2014), a painting done in house paint, charcoal and graphite on a double 8th Century door, portrays Christ weeping dark tears from one eye only. His un-nailed, upturned feet give an impression that, although he is suffering, he might also be flying. “I identify with Christ being used to excuse widespread atrocity,” Kirkpatrick says. “He is a symbol for consumption, divide and discrimination. An excuse for fear.” A 2012 work in graphite, pastel, charcoal, oil stick and spray paint entitled Bones at El Pescador is a tour de force of color and conflict. A succession of masks at the top of the canvas appears to capture the aging process. Vehicles run over each other and Jesus-in-a-crown turns gray before our eyes. Fingers become syringes as they grab for the dollar bills beneath a donkey’s ass. Once seen, it can be difficult to dismiss any of Kirkpatrick’s painted infernos. But the poetical, political aspects of her gestures and the overall benevolence of the artist triumph in these, the stories that never end.

The painter finds that the layered writings of the poet Dante still exude a powerful force. His Cantos are explicitly referenced and painted in roman numerals on several works, as if Kirkpatrick is leaving clues for our common voyage. Texts and signage are essential parts of most Kirkpatrick creations. Liquor store marquees, brand names, sports team logos, snippets of verse, and meaningful aphorisms float around the figures and objects, like fireflies having ideas. We “read” the paintings in intuitive ways, and their narrative, diaristic flavor becomes even more theatrical with the painted backdrop of dialogue. Indeed, each work can be viewed as a conversation with the viewer; one that artist initiates and quickly intensifies. Her voice demands that we listen, then exudes a kind of reassurance that problems, by their very nature, were meant to be solved. Kirkpatrick’s mind and the paintings themselves are kinetic and cryptic. Tense tableaux are based on impulse, but nothing is left to chance. Putting each painting out there is a minor act of courage. To Kirkpatrick, it’s a necessity. The spirited scenes seem to breathe. Or more precisely: they sigh. Of course, a sigh can signify despair but also relief.

Kirkpatrick’s painterly works are handsome, gritty, passionate and resolutely hopeful. The artist is an alchemist who presents symbols and figures that resound with a kind of effortless defiance.

Primitive, Picassco-esque visages bleed and bray. A bull, with its fleshy tongue in the air, seems blissfully unaware as arrows come toward him. A doll can only be howling, his mouth a black void, arms outstretched. Sonny Liston takes a punch in the ring from Muhammad Ali and hovers a foot above the bottom edge of the canvas. An angel hangs upside down, its tarnished halo still attached. Life, it would appear, is a battle to maintain one’s self-esteem. And Kirkpatrick’s characters succeed despite the odds. From Boxers to Batman, Mammies to Mona Lisa, Hell’s Angels to harlots, Kirkpatrick’s paintings are inhabited by dogged, dog-eared characters drawn with dignity. They’ve found their torment. They’re aristocrats.

The Los Angeles-based artist is in the habit of taking daily coffee in a café near her Silverlake home. Each tablecloth becomes a tapestry, a record of the bittersweet thoughts of every mortal’s morning. Using pencil, charcoal, oil stick, and even spilled coffee as her mediums, some forms appear etched in acid and other sections are caressed with brushstrokes. Kirkpatrick listens to the world and eavesdrops on herself. In a sweeping act of understanding, Kirkpatrick makes existence conquerable. It is as if our purpose is to address and comprehend even the troubling aspects of

the lives of others. Dana Louise Kirkpatrick most likely made memorable art in that coffee shop this very morning. Preferring drawing to idle chatter, one can imagine her sitting there silently as she works, speaking volumes.

 

- Essay written by Doug McClemont on the occasion of the opening of ZUGZWANG at KM Fine Arts | Los Angeles on November 8, 2014. The essay was included in the catalog that accompanied the exhibition.

Dana Louise Kirkpatrick: Zugzwang

Nov 8, 2014 – Jan 17, 2015