Strategy and Struggle Inspire Lively Paintings by Dana Louise Kirkpatrick

In her second solo show at KM Fine Arts this winter Dana Louise Kirkpatrick presents over a dozen new drawings. “ZUGZWANG,” the exhibition’s title, refers to an interaction in a game, but especially chess, where a player is forced to make a move and their options are limited to undesirable choices—the results of the opponent’s moves. The reference can be understood as a personal commentary by the artist, referring to grapples with her work in the studio, playing against the canvas and being forced into certain moves by the logic of the art itself.

Kirkpatrick mines inspirations from “other artists, struggle, the underdogs, boxers, whores and dark faces,” she says. “I find inspiration from iconic imagery done again.” Much of her work is inspired by personal experiences, and this shows clearly in her expressive, gestural depictions of people on city streets. It also shows in her notes about everyday life: recurring textual elements about ATMs and coin-operated laundry machines. In GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS ATM/LOTTO RUN STRAIGHT THRU THE MOTHERFUCKING MILL (all works 2014), a painting in oil and pastels on unstretched linen, Kirkpatrick recreates a Byzantine icon of Christ, here labeled “fisher man.” He is depicted with dark skin and a shabby appearance; a nickel complements the traditional christograms at either side of his head. In another drawing, Beijings Umbrellas, recent events in China’s democracy movement are depicted, with a manically drawn screaming man, perhaps recently tear-gassed, written over with the word “DEFIANCE.”

Kirkpatrick’s recent work is inspired by that of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, with allusions to both sprinkled throughout. In Wicked Box Yield Brother, one of Warhol’s infamous Brillo boxes is drawn in rough lines at the lower right corner. Nods to the street artist, musician, and painter Basquiat are found throughout her paintings, such as an icon of the boxer Joe Louis in Cesar’s Palace Goodnight Miss Bye Sir and the use of white skeletal forms over black figures, as in Tar Baby Brand Soap 5 Cents. Even her quick, neo-expressionistic method of filling large spaces with scribbles of flat color recalls the art of earlier eras, paying homage to her predecessors.

Kirkpatrick’s devotion to the history of art in the past 40 years, and her interest in contemporary politics gives her work a distinct richness. She is devoted to representing the struggles of working men and women, and the political or religious paths they take to create meaning in the world. 

—Stephen Dillon

ZUGZWANG” is on view at KM Fine Arts, Los Angeles, Nov. 8, 2014–Jan. 17, 2015.

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