Machiko Edmondson’s Hyperreal Paintings Confront Our Impossible Standard of Beauty
Machiko Edmondson’s work is, to borrow a term from French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, hyperreal—more real than real. This extreme level of clarity is on display in “Everything in Equal Measure,” a new show at UNIX Gallery in New York, where Edmondson’s meticulously detailed oil paintings navigate our impossible ideals of beauty.
In each painting, Edmondson zooms in close on a female model’s face, cropping the image on a cheekbone, an arched eyebrow, or bottom lip. Their faces possess impossibly smooth, poreless skin, decorated with cartoonishly large eyes that pop off the canvas in an array of prismatic colors. In Dichotomous (2016), the model’s eyes are of markedly different shades, adding a fantastical quality to the work.
The work engages money-making trends set by fashion photographers and their benefactor, the beauty industry. Cheeks are contoured and eye shadow is well-blended, as if a professional makeup artist was hired for the job. It’s easy to imagine these images being captured in a photo studio with carefully calibrated lights, then heavily photoshopped and placed in a glossy magazine editorial.
More often than not, the women betray only the hint of a smile, and their emotionless expressions offer little information about personalities or mood. I Love You Till Tuesday (2016) is an exception: The subject’s oily black eye makeup drips into the neatly contained tracks of a tear—the one suggestion that she’s a living person with real emotions, not some waxy mannequin covered in product.