Art In Uncertain Times: Danica Lundy Paints Physicality For Her New Body of Work "Bleach Cologne"
"I keep thinking about something the neo Expressionist Philip Guston said, like, half a century ago," Danica Lundy recalls, as we begin our conversation for Art in Uncertain Times, that “When the 1960s came along I was feeling split, schizophrenic. The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything—and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue?”
We're checking in with Danica Lundy, another participant in ME: An Exhibition of Contemporary Self-Portraiture which we presented with Sugarlift in January in NYC. She also had a piece in the Auguries of Innocence at Fredericks and Freiser Gallery, an absolute beast of a painting and probably my personal favorite that week. Needless to say, I was super excited about visiting her studio and seeing more of the clever concepts and technique she would be using in preparation for her big German debut set for mid-May. "My upcoming show at GNYP Gallery in Berlin is called Bleach Cologne, a title that (to me) at once promises a bait and switch and points somewhere ambiguous or current.”
Unfortunately, things have changed a fair bit ever since, and, while learning about her new paintings, we also talked about how the current situation has affected her practice, work, and current life, in general. I can say that her paintings gleam with confidence, each connected to the other by the interplay of the same scenes but perceived from different angles or periods of time. Her perspectives are laser sharp with key objects or materials rendered invisible to focus on the intended viewpoint.
"This body of work began with a painting of a knot of soccer players going up for a header. I borrowed its underlying composition from a Beckmann painting at the Met in which a flattened laze of boaters enjoy a sunny, vertical ride. I wanted some of the physicality I’ve understood through sport (and through Beckmann) to direct the play of the paint; I was thinking about what an ongoing, violent, physical closeness to other girls meant to me growing up as an athlete, and how it shaped my relationship to myself and other women.
The next was loosely based on a painting of Aaron Gilbert’s I saw last year at Lyles and King called ‘Citibank.’ Larry Nassar loomed large in my mind at the time. My version is of a guy with one hand pressed up against a car window that is unrolled just a crack, while the other hand dangles down to frame a girl’s flattened head—the two seem to be in conversation.
After that, the canvases turned inward to intimate spaces. In ‘Sink,’ I was trying to make visual rhymes almost audible — scooped bowl, a sloping valley of a neck, curve of toilet paper — not unlike the enduring efforts of a leaky faucet. The initial version of this painting was a reaction to a short story by Julio Cortázar, which makes a myth-like case against pragmatism and “the horrible tendency of reaching useful ends. The family plays a game where they tie a knot in a single strand of hair and slip it down the sink, and spend the rest of their lives trying to find it.
The largest painting starts from inside a smoking mouth and extends outward to a group of people during the dregs of a tailgate/fire pit party, where two men (Adam? God?) share a look, and maybe a joint, and from under their hands, two girls communicate through tips of ponytails.
Each painting connects to another in some small way— through iconography, palette, character, form, content, and subject matter."
When we shift to current events, Lundy muses "It goes without saying, those who haven’t lost their jobs or aren’t stuck in home arrest, continue working in risky environments to keep people alive at their own peril. Which makes me think, “What kind of a (wo)man am I…?” I know the kind I want to be: one who responds powerfully to the moment—whatever that contribution proves to be, and however trivial it might seem in light of the enormity of the situation we are facing— maintaining a deep belief in the importance of art in a time of crisis or uncertainty. Even if it means starting by adjusting a red to a blue.
I tell myself I have work to finish. I’ve got to play house in my head, keep it tidy in there, or else face a breakdown. So with the brush as my little broom, here I am, and so it goes. I’ve cut myself off from the news in the studio. Instead, I listen to Murakami, Lana, Vonnegut, Neutral Milk Hotel while I paint, with a little Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon sprinkled in if a masochistic spirit moves me. Later, once asleep, I start anxiously bleaching every surface in my head, urging the people gathered there to disperse.
I’m lucky enough to share the current state of isolation with my boyfriend, Tim—as a couple of wild workaholics, we are deliberately slowing things down. We've been playing a lot of rummy, making dumb music videos, apple crumble, attempting to exchange our hibernating muscles for Shaun T’s rippling ones through an “Insanity” workout regime (and then eating the crumble). And of course meme culture prospers, as humor is wont to do in dark times. My favorite art-related one so far is of Van Gogh with a mask hanging off one ear and the caption just reads: “Fuck”.
In conclusion, you’ve got the time, and these images from her studio are worth a long and lingering look. Enjoy this invitation to an intricate and intimate body of work.
Text compiled by Sasha Bogojev