Contemporary large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids are on view in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection. The exhibition imagines a visual conversation between 37 women artists from 15 countries exploring images of the female body and the physical process of making.
Hayv Kahraman, Dana Schutz, Nina Chanel Abney, and Kaari Upson use double portraits to explore different concepts.
What’s On View?
Hayv Kahraman’s Migrant. I, 2009
Inspired by Persian miniatures, Renaissance painting, and Japanese woodblock prints, Hayv Kahraman (b. 1981, Baghdad) uses portraiture as “representational activism” to serve as “a catalyst for social change.”
The figures of two women with nooses around their necks are joined in Migrant. I. One reaches down to touch the bound arms of the other, who is blindfolded.
Kahraman’s painting references the “migrant consciousness” and the double identity experienced by immigrants and refugees as they leave their home and struggle to adapt to new surroundings.
Dana Schutz’s Lovers, 2003
Dana Schutz (b. 1976, Livonia, Michigan) creates paintings imbued with vibrant colors and dazzling, faceted shapes. “I don’t want my paintings to be about the physical substance of the paint,” she says. “I think about what I want the image to be.”
In Lovers, a couple embraces awkwardly in a secluded spot near a park bench. The seemingly reptilian arm of one of the central figures adds to the zaniness of the scene. Schutz’s narratives are her imaginative responses to riddles, conundrums, and perplexing contemporary events.
Nina Chanel Abney’s Khaaliqua & Jeff, 2007
Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago, Illinois) blends serious political themes together with playful colors. Abney’s work often involves an element of mystery. “I have a definite story in my head,” she says, “but I like to leave it to the viewer to figure it out.”
Khaaliqua & Jeff is a double portrait of a woman wearing yellow rubber gloves holding the arm of a man in front of her. “Everyone in the painting is kind of a suspect,” she says. “I use rubber gloves to symbolize that someone has done dirty work.”
The painting comes from a series of portraits meant to focus on subject’s “inner qualities and personality traits” by giving the impression that the viewer is witnessing an intimate moment.
Kaari Upson’s Kiss 8, 2007
Multimedia, installation, video, and performance artist Kaari Upson (b. 1972, San Bernardino, California) conducted an elaborate investigation into the life of a stranger for her series “The Larry Project.” Upson said, “Larry could be anybody. My main investigation is between self and other.”
After collecting and examining personal belongings from the remains of a house fire, Upson painted an imagined portrait of Larry. While the painting was wet, Upson “smashed it face-to-face with her own self-portrait,” merging their faces together in these “kiss” paintings.
Visit the museum and explore NO MAN’S LAND, on view through January 8, 2017.
—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.