Tenderizer: Sarah Slappey @ Galerie Maria Bernheim, Zurich
It's been an intense six months since we visited Sarah Slappey's Brooklyn studio ahead of her successful solo debut with Sargent’s Daughters in NYC, and it’s safe to say that quarantine has not tamped her spirit. She recently opened her international debut with Galerie Maria Bernheim in Zürich, Switzerland with a new body of work, Tenderizer, where she continues to gleefully swashbuckle through a universe of sexualized tropes, unafraid to champion the female body and its powers.
The gallery describes her as “part of a generation of female artistic practitioners who use humor and warping in an attempt to dismantle ideas of the traditional gaze on the female body in art and to rid painting of feminine shame.” The NYC based artist lets loose surreal, super charged imagery that throws a shadow on predominantly male-dominated artistic traditions and styles of the nude. Her cast of grasping fingers, billowy buttocks, glowing pearl and insolent nipples cavort in an abstracted landscape that teeter totters between the sensual and repulsive. Like a wild field of flowers and weeds, the smooth surfaces and elegant pinks and purples sway against occasional lipstick strokes, as well as rigid patterns or chain structures in the frame. The feverish tension extends to the contextual aspect of the work, where classically attractive, alluring visuals are tased and tainted by blood-stained tampon strings or a syrup of oozing, dripping fluids. Within this culture clash, the artist continuously provokes a conversation about what is acceptable, what is questionable and and is considered forbidden.
In this presentation, which includes 7 large-scale oil paintings along with a series of pencil on paper drawings, Slappey polishes her smoothly rendered oil imagery with thick oil stick marks. With bold confidence and resolute determination, her interjections irreverently laugh at established, unnatural makeup and prettifying cultures. By smearing milk drops, nipples, garters, or fishnet pantyhose with stained fingers over velvety bodies in portraying the human urge to impose a perceived improvement of the natural body is gross in itself. Framing her works not as portraiture but as fetishized objects she concocts dramatic comedies in through-provoking, abstracted visual metaphors. —Sasha Bogojev
Installation photos by Annik Wetter