Joan Semmel “An Other View” at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

By Last Updated: May 18, 2024Views: 32

“An Different View” is American painter Joan Semmel (b.1932)’s inaugural exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition spans a interval of 5 a long time, showcasing the most important developments within the artist’s oeuvre. The eight large-format oil work and two works on paper on show, created between 1971 and 2018, collectively attest to Semmel’s decades-long dedication to the illustration of girls, largely via the medium of her personal physique. The passage of time, permits the viewers to take an unvarnished have a look at pure ageing, in addition to contemplate the socio-political engagement of “the non-public is the political” and the evolution of feminist points throughout a number of a long time, from the sexual liberation of the 70s to up to date society’s veneration of youth.

By adopting a resolutely non-objectifying stance—her personal physique as the topic—Semmel has created an oeuvre that not solely challenges conventional representations of girls but additionally explores themes similar to id, sexuality, and censorship. She doesn’t contemplate her work to be self-portraits, however fairly as touchstones: pictures that carry vital points into focus, in order that they are often confronted. Whereas Semmel tends to work in collection, the component that binds the oeuvre collectively—along with the give attention to selfhood and self-representation—is the usage of color. Semmel’s strategy to colouration is summary, whereas her strategy to figuration is unapologetically real looking.

The earliest work within the exhibition is certainly one of Semmel’s iconic intercourse work from 1971. Painted in response to the industrial exploitation of feminine our bodies, Semmel sought to create an erotic visible language that will communicate to girls. Her perception that feminine repression begins within the sexual area was one other catalyst. Utilizing the physique as a structural kind, and colors that betray her Summary Expressionist roots, these pioneering works are intimate but devoid of sentimentality. The contemporaneous Self-Picture collection, represented by two works on paper, mark a turning level in her follow: the start of the extreme give attention to her personal physique. A key intention was to problem the male gaze in Western portray and common tradition. Therefore her choice to grow to be each observer and topic in her work, transcending the normal themes of vulnerability and seduction. Crucially, she opted to color her physique from her personal standpoint, each in a literal and figurative sense. That is clear in a piece like Weathered (2018): the viewer observes the feminine physique from throughout the body, so to talk, as if wanting via the eyes of the artist.

Works similar to Baroque (2002) and Disappearing (2006) spotlight necessary gadgets in Semmel’s work: mannequins, mirrors and cameras. Every object has a transparent goal. Baroque encompasses a discarded model, which Semmel discovered on the streets of New York. The portray is a darkish critique on client tradition and, in her personal phrases “the mass manufacturing of the fascinating feminine picture.” The lifeless types allude to the cult of youth and the way girls will be “discarded” as soon as they attain a sure age. Then again, mirrors and cameras, that are additionally featured in Baroque, have an empowering perform. Semmel factors the digital camera at a mirror to take a self-portrait however, by way of the reflection, concurrently trains it on the viewer. A tripling of the feminine physique—actual (the foot on the glass), synthetic (model) and illusory (reflection)—but additionally a reversal of the feminine gaze: via the digital camera, the viewer additionally turns into a topic of the work. A portray about wanting and being checked out. The mirror alludes to the artificiality of pictures and the development of id, but additionally to artwork itself: work and pictures are illusions, by no means the truth. Disappearing, which relies on {a photograph}, is noteworthy for replicating the blur of the unique picture in pigments, thereby creating a way of motion.

Joan Semmel’s work invitations viewers to rethink the methods by which girls’s our bodies are perceived and represented in artwork, in society, and in up to date tradition. Says the artist: “Reimagining the nude with out objectifying the particular person, utilizing my very own physique, made it clear that the artist was feminine and undercut the stereotypes of the male artist and the feminine muse. I wished to subvert that custom from inside.”

at Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
till June 15, 2024

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