Jen Ray’s paintings of “sparring Amazonian women who inhabit decaying, semi-surrealist and strangely beautiful wastelands” evoke the late ‘70s avant-post-psychedelic science fiction worlds one would associate with Heavy Metal (the magazine, not the music), but with a decidedly feminist bent—both in subject matter, and, some might argue, in form as well. Angry, jagged, “masculine” lines are filled in with soft, “feminine” washes of color—that is if colors and lines can even be described as “masculine” or “feminine” in the 21st century.
Untitled. 2007. (Detail)—Click on image for larger version.
Ray seems to delight in playing with gender stereotypes, and it’s all the more obvious in the exceptional performance pieces she constructs to augment her magnificent large-scale works of fine art.
North Carolina born, Ray was based out of Berlin for nearly a decade before recently returning to her home state. Her exhibitions of painting and performance have been presented in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Wolfsburg, Paris, Copenhagen, Mexico City, Amersfoort (Netherlands), and most recently, at New York’s Albertz Benda gallery.
Ray’s newest exhibition, Deep Cuts, runs at Albertz Benda until November 7th. The presentation which accompanied the opening, directed by Ray, featured a performance by Honeychild Coleman and Amor Schumacher along with a chorus of women backing up détourned renditions of Public Enemy’s “Countdown to Armageddon” and The Guess Who’s “American Woman.”
In a world where the mere mention of the phrase “performance art” sends eyes rolling with assumptions of self-indulgent, pretentious, mess-making (and add the word “feminist” to that phrase and you’ll likely lose even more dudebro interest) it’s remarkable how entertaining, as well as conceptual and thought-provoking, Jen Ray’s productions are. It’s very nearly as populist as it is powerful in its approach.
Give it a couple of minutes to ramp up and stick with it till the end… this is killer:
The first of Jen Ray’s performance works that I viewed (and still my favorite) was Hits which takes Black Flag’s tongue-in-cheek 1987 macho party-anthem “Annihilate This Week” and turns it on its ass. My remark upon first viewing this piece was “this is more interesting than any (punk band’s) show I’ve been to in the past five years.” The sterile atmosphere of the gallery space and its attendees being invaded by singer “Mad Kate” out-Rollins-ing Rollins somehow makes the proceedings even more “punk.”
This may not be safe for some work environments:
Much more after the jump…