Magazine article Artforum International

Gina Beavers: CLIFTON BENEVENTO

Magazine article Artforum International

Gina Beavers: CLIFTON BENEVENTO

Article excerpt

The paintings in Gina Beavers's solo exhibition "Palate," we are told, were based on images of food found online, mostly through social media. Sounds ho-hum, no? Why must a painter so strenuously declare the JPEG provenance of her reference points? What gave rise to the trending sentiment that Google Image Search serves up a more convincing representation of the world than anything encountered en plein air? What genre--if that term even applies--of online photography could be more gratingly anodyne than the compulsively shared cataloging of last night's dinner? Is this some flailing attempt to inject contemporary relevance into the exhausted tradition of still life? Well, in a manner of speaking, yes--and with splendidly gross results.

The Titian scholar David Rosand is fond of quoting Willem de Kooning's observation "Flesh was the reason oil painting was invented." Beavers works with acrylic, not oil, but the same principle applies: If Florentine perspective forged a metaphoric connection between windowpanes and painted surfaces, Venetian brushwork stirred up associations between paint itself and the material stuff it portrayed, such as gleaming silver, bunched silk, translucent glass, weathered stone, and above all flesh, with its palpable allure and vulnerability. By invoking old-master tradition, I don't mean to elevate Beavers's practice through distinguished comparison, but to plunge it into painting's muck. Her canvases are a mess of acrylic clots--packed, pinched, swirled--that, through visceral punch rather than waxwork likeness, conjure up food's crunch, crumble, drip, and glisten. Beavers piles on the paint so thickly that it protrudes like relief sculpture, and she often mixes in unorthodox materials to further convey a dish's physical attributes, using pumice stone for the porous texture of blueberry-pie crust, or glass beads for the slippery gleam of oyster dipping sauce. …

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