Shoshana Wayne Gallery is pleased to present Minoan Girls by Elaine Reichek featuring sixteen new works, including three large-scale tapestries. This is the artist’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. The “Minoan Girls” series (2011–16) continues the exploration of Greek myth that Reichek began in her previous body of work, “Ariadne’s Thread.” It centers on the narratives of lust, seduction, betrayal, bestiality, and abandonment that determined the fates of four mythic women of Minos: Europa, Pasiphae, Phaedra, and of course Ariadne. Thread is once again the foundational conceptual link running through the series, echoing Ariadne’s gift to Theseus of the ball of thread that enabled him to navigate the Cretan labyrinth. In “Minoan Girls” Reichek focuses on the ways in which the Greek myths are continually retold and reenacted over the centuries, in the same way that sewing doubles a thread back upon itself repeatedly.
Reichek employs a wide range of mediums, including both hand and digital embroidery, silkscreen, beading, digital photography, and tapestry. She uses these methods to re-create works by artists ranging from Titian, Rubens, and Rembrandt to Gustav Klimt, Eugène Atget, André Masson, and Anni Albers, and pairs these images with quotations sampling a wide variety of literature, from Ovid, Plutarch, and Nonnus to Giorgio de Chirico, Stevie Smith, and Erika Mumford. The tones of these texts are by turns speculative, propositional, anticipatory, and ruminative. Each Minoan Girl is conscious of the part she plays and of the trajectory of her story. “You were the heroine,” says one narrator to Ariadne, who replies, “Yes, so I was and am.” This Ariadne is a diarist, shaping her own version of the narrative. Even the male protagonists—Zeus (taking the appearance of a bull), King Minos, the Minotaur, Theseus, Hippolytus—try on a succession of changing and often contradictory roles: father, son, sailor, rapist, seducer, bedfellow, husband.
Reichek helpfully supplies a Minoan Family Tree, decked out as Klimt’s “Tree of Life.” One of the best-known mythic scenarios, the Rape of Europa, is subjected to an almost diagrammatic exploration of the possibilities of narrative meaning and poetic appropriation. One pair of embroideries humorously translates the temporal layering of the “back story” into transparent needlepoint canvas. In another embroidery, the four women of the Minoan family are imagined walking hand-in-hand against a blood-red garland. This chain represents their connected fates and links their archetypal stories to countless possible future reinterpretations. Various formal and visual devices parallel the ways in which the ancient myths have been reinterpreted across centuries. For Reichek, the reiterative processes inherent in translation and interpretation are creative acts, and the movements they initiate among languages, disciplines, and materials open possibilities for new readings and meanings.
Elaine Reichek has exhibited extensively at institutions in the United States and abroad, including the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts, Columbus, Ohio; the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; the Irish Museum of Modern Art; Dublin; and the Tel Aviv Art Museum. She has participated in biennials worldwide including, the Whitney Biennial, New York (2012); the 30th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, Brazil (2012); and the Cheongju International Craft Biennial, Cheongju, Korea (2011). Reichek has been the recipient of prestigious grants and awards such as the Francis J. Greenburger Award (2013); the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2011-12); the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2005); and The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1993). The artist lives and works in New York.
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