The second solo exhibition of Canadian-born NYC-based artist Chloe Wise’s work at Almine Rech Gallery is currently on display in London until 18 May. Wise’s practice encompasses a variety of forms, from painting to sculpture and installation, showcasing her particular interest in the history of portraiture. Not That We Don’t at Almine Rech is a continuation of Wise’s focus on portraits as she explores the unspoken dynamics maintaining the individuals’ participation amongst the group. Her new series of paintings examine social rituals permitting collective harmony with portraits featuring rainbow hues and energetic poses.
The subjects of her paintings are often staged with recognisable goods, and in this case, the people are framed alongside products of sanitation like Saran wrap. As Almine Rech writes, “While the lush environments of Wise’s paintings signal the comfort of cleanliness, the appearance of Kleenex or Purell speaks to a violence festering below the surface should one not adhere to implied regulation.” How the portraits are staged speaks to the discord between the intimate relationship linking the artist and her subjects and the mediation separating them. In Not That We Don’t, severed floating hands appear more often than faces. The lack of faces in the portraits makes the viewer work to figure out if the message is positive or negative.
Placed within a space of ambiguity, Wise’s subjects flirt with legibility; their gathering suggesting a familiar event such as a party, theatrical production, or a yearbook photo, only to deny the grounds for any such staged communion. Figures in the portraits loom large, and in a rather imposing manner. Where faces do appear in Wise’s work, the expressions are disquieting, showing moments of desire to break from their pose or seemingly asking the viewer to look away. Confronted with the oscillation between seduction and repulsion, the figures in these portraits evoke the dichotomy between active and passive as well as viewer and object.
Throughout her portfolio, Wise has tackled topics like advertising, fashion, taboo and more by looking at the consumptive habits built around the structures. She is known for her use of parody and derision, and understanding of how the body becomes excessive in its manipulation of these sites. Not That We Don’t at Almine Rech is open until 18 May 2019.
Words by Sara Frazier | Feature image: Chloe Wise, Which lake do I prefer, 2018. Oil on linen, 182,9 x 152,4 cm | 72 x 60 inches / Courtesy the Artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Logan Jackson (via Almine Rech)