Female Artists in Phillips New Now

Sep 16, 2016 8:37PM

Over the past decade, female artists have reshaped and redefined the scope of contemporary painting, sculpture and photography in both their aesthetic practices and subject matter. While some explore overtly feminine themes of beauty, gender norms and the human condition, many have pioneered distinctly contemporary techniques by utilizing new materials and processes. Our New Now sale at Phillips next week highlights many of these female artists who have elevated the scope of contemporary art practices across a variety of mediums.

Works being offered by Portland-based artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins and South African-based Liza Lou are both exceptional examples of each of their practices. Hutchins’ mixed media sculptures have garnered a great deal of critical attention since her inclusion in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and have been exhibited across the country over the past few years. Lot 44, Loveseat and Bowls, is an excellent example that highlights objects of daily life, engaging the viewer in its familiarity. Composed of a floral-patterned loveseat, atop which rest ceramic bowls, the sculpture calls attention to the domestic space her viewers inhabit. Hutchins’ desire to connect with onlookers on this level is both a strong desire and a direct result of her sculptural method.

Similarly, Liza Lou’s large-scale barricades engulf the viewer in their sheer size, composed of gold beads on aluminum. Lou’s materials actually come from her home- base in Durban, South Africa, where the traditional craft of beadwork still exists today. In creating these sculptures, local bead workers in the area work alongside her. Lot 45, titled Barricade, is a stunning example that glistens in its space while exploring themes of isolation and the confines that many females occupy today. Lou received the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2002, when she was awarded for her unique perspective on the female position and her creative use of materials.

Also featured in next week’s New Now sale are a number of young female artists who have elevated painting to new levels with the appropriation of distinctly contemporary techniques. With lot 6, Margo Wolowiec’s Crumpled in the Backseat illustrates the artist’s distinctive dye-sublimation technique, where images derived from social media sites are printed onto strands of thread, distorting them into beautifully abstract compositions.

In a similarly complex process, Lucie Stahl utilizes inkjet printing followed by an overall encasement of the prints in polyurethane, often also incorporating three-dimensional elements. The result of this process can be seen in lot 12, Albuquerque, where a 9-inch pipe extends from a resin-encased print mounted on aluminum. Stahl’s work explores themes of transience and the malleability of identity, which is particularly relevant with her concurrent show on view at the Dallas Museum of Art this month.

Also unique in their methods are artists Louise Despont and Jana Euler. Despont’s Sandglass, lot 18, is composed of antique ledger book pages that are all hand-drawn with compasses, stencils and rulers, borrowing motifs from her part-time home in Bali. An abstract acrylic on canvas work by Euler, entitled The working-process out of focus, lot 19, illustrates a group of desk workers, rendered in a spray-paint-like effect, reducing the figures to contour lines and stripping them of all individuality. The artist’s first solo show at Kunsthalle in Zürich in 2014 showcased her multidisciplinary prowess across many mediums, all works of which explored societal and cultural constraints in the modern age like this one.

Other lots which celebrate the female interpretation of contemporary art practices are lots 15 by Rosy Keyser and 17 by Lucy Dodd, both of which are rooted in naturalistic materials. Keyser’s large-scale La Fonda Midnight uses sawdust and obsidian while Dodd’s Unwound Rope Piece, which comes up on the heels of her celebrated show at the Whitney last spring, is composed of unwound ropes hanging from wood.

The sale also features a selection of women photographers who have broken the boundaries of the medium. In lot 98, Mariah Roberston challenges the confines of photograph by ripping and cutting the edges of a large-scale print, giving evidence of the artist’s hand behind the work. 

Other photographers such as Leslie Hewitt and Luisa Lambri blur the lines between sculpture and photography through their chosen subject matter. In Luisa Lambri’s three photographs of Barragan Houses (lot 100), windows left ajar create dramatic cast shadows, capturing moments in a minimalist space that result in three beautifully enigmatic compositions. In contrast, Leslie Hewitt’s Untitled (Solid) (lot 92) features flat books and DVDs, which create a pedestal atop which stands a piece of plywood against a wall — the subject for a still-life created by the artist herself. The resulting chromogenic print pushes the objects into the forefront of the composition, calling attention to the two-dimensionality of the space and the limitations of the photography practice.

These abstract ideas are further explored in lots 34 and 97 in photos by Sarah Charlesworth and Uta Barth. These works recall color-field paintings in their apparent absence of activity and abstraction of objects and landscapes. Charlesworth’s color photograph Altar from the “0 + 1” series contains the slightest depiction of an altar in an otherwise monochromatic white print, while Barth’s blurred landscape entitled Field creates an element of mystery in its colorful abstraction.