august 5, 2020

Alissa McKendrick

Alissa McKendrick
Untitled, 2020

Alissa McKendrick

Opening August 6th

Collaborations is pleased to present a solo exhibition with New York–based painter Alissa McKendrick. This is the artist’s first solo presentation with the gallery, following her two-person show here last year, in addition to being her debut solo exhibition in Europe. Over the past several years, McKendrick has developed a narratively driven body of work that embraces the drawn line but also deftly navigates the wide material range of oil paint, balancing illustrative detail with wide swaths of atmospheric experimentation. The artist paints scenes that achieve an ambiguous tension between malevolence and play, in which macabre events and settings—car wrecks, graveyards—swirl around a cast of mischievous characters—human, animal, and otherworldly. For her forthcoming exhibition with Collaborations, McKendrick presents a suite of works in which effeminate and ethereal figures insouciantly occupy chaotic tableaus, casually wielding their own mysterious agency and whim over their scenes.   

In the two largest works on view at Collaborations, McKendrick establishes as a motif an electric guitar player, who appears in various paintings enchanting and luring creatures with her riffs. A large scale, warm yellow painting features two figures, one kneeling in a dress playing guitar under the shelter of an umbrella, the other windswept and upright, bare breasted with a fishtail in place of feet, entering from the picture plane’s edge as though summoned from the ocean. A narrow passage of water bisects the picture plane, otherwise punctuated with a few abandoned umbrellas. The two figures appear to hypnotically commune, each painted with glowing eyes. A pink and green work of the same size also shows a guitar player alongside a subdued dragon, luring a second creature from the hazy distance. 

In another large-scale horizontal purple nocturne, a green witch is perched on a lavender chapel roof, casually leaning against its steeple, accompanied by black and orange cats. McKendrick’s subtractive methods of paint application create an agitated, roiling magenta sky, overlooking a hilly expanse that includes a winding road and rickety graveyard. The painting’s panorama parallels the omniscient view of the witch—a subtle reminder that knowledge is primary to evil women in mythology. A small, teal painting positions the viewer in the graveyard, the chapel transposed to a tiny green cross in the distance. Amidst scattered beige gravestones, unruly blades of grass, and a blooming cherry blossom tree, a smiling woman with a bouncy cobalt ponytail rests against a gravestone as though it were a headboard. She is partially buried in the dirt, but her feet protrude and carelessly wiggle. 

Across the works on view, McKendrick’s characters appear at home with menace or uncertainty. In the present series, the artist focuses the natural world as a setting, in particular the ocean and its inherent disquietude—both real and symbolic. One work shows a smirking girlish figure swerving a hot pink car down a metallic street, her mass of long hair whipping out her side window, followed closely behind by curlicues of exhaust smoke. Her passenger is an unworried purple demon whose elaborate horns protrude from the roof of the car, while he innocently smiles at his mischievous driver. Ahead, two beach-going demons cross the street with equal nonchalance toward the approaching vehicle; one is naked carrying a surfboard overhead, the other wears a thong bikini and shakes out a beach towel. The ocean appears in the form of three calligraphic waves, drawn in profile, somewhat incongruously, on the horizon beyond—suggesting the approach of a tidal wave, or perhaps the maniacal driver has just rounded a tight corner. Catastrophe lurks, yet seems voided by the abandonment common to the painting’s characters. 

Alissa McKendrick lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has previously had solo exhibitions with Team Gallery, New York (2019) and Real Fine Arts, Brooklyn (2014, 2012). 

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