MODEL! PLEASURE! ARTIST! ALIVE!
Cheryl Donegan @ Missoni NYC curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi
Angela Missoni presents Model! Pleasure! Artist! Alive!, a personal exhibition of Cheryl Donegan, curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi. Organized in collaboration with Apalazzo Gallery, the exhibition will open on October 25th as part of the Surface Conversion project, the artistic platform that makes use of the spaces and floor areas of the Missoni boutique on Madison Avenue in New York.
Model! Pleasure! Artist! Alive!, Cheryl Donegan’s exhibition curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi for Missoni in New York, builds upon a cycle of events that started with Jonas Mekas‘ personal exhibition last year and were dedicated to the dynamism of New York’s arts scene as seen from the perspective of different generations. The shop areas burst with this vitality creating new forms of dialogue between arts, fashion and reality.
These intersections serve as a foundation for the work of Cheryl Donegan, who is a pioneer of the post-digital aesthetics and has been releasing lo-fi images for more than twenty years, causing short-circuits between performing arts, videomaking and painting. Immediately adopted into the canon of the feminist art movement with videos such as Gag, Kiss My Royal Irish Ass and Head — shown at the Venice Biennale in 1993 — the artist uses a number of do-it-yourself, analog and non-analog techniques to turn objects and symbols of the metropolitan life into abstract art. Her works have been exhibited at major international stages such as the Whitney Biennial, MoMA, New Museum, Tang Museum of Art, and Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon.
For Missoni, Cheryl Donegan absorbs the colors, forms and patterns of minor urban landscapes and reconstructs them into an irresistible psychedelia made of acid tones. Air conditioner grids ruthlessly painted with graffiti, beauty shop windows in Harlem, vandalized cars, and the shattered glass of old PC monitors together with toy computer graphics, all become personal visual obsessions that will eventually be transformed into charming abstract paintings. This is the process that is taking place in the boutique on fifteen lightboxes, marked by real and virtual signs that become blurred in the already fluid horizon of our lives.
The same mixture of production strategies stands at the origin of the monumental installation on the shop windows overlooking the Madison Avenue. Six long fabric rolls of the Banners series (2015 – ongoing) have been unreeled from the ceiling to the floor, revealing fragmented lines and zones of color. Through an update of the surrealistic techniques used in automatic painting, the huge ribbons are produced by the artist by forcing the parameters of an online press service. The geometries printed on the fabrics are created through the scanning of market tracksuits or variations of the gingham, the checkered fabric that is typically used on tablecloths, garments and other haberdashery products. Is this a democratic dream of modernist, grid-based paintings or the unstoppable compulsiveness of hypertrophic machines?
In a separate area of the showroom, three videos play in heavy rotation on three monitors. Made in a music video style, I Still Want to Drown (2010) plays along with a song by Dionne Warwick. Donegan mimics Nicole Kidman in the first scene of Eyes Wide Shut, she steals a frame from Jeanne Dielman, Chantal Akerman’s masterpiece movie, and volunteers herself to work as a model for a teleshopping ad, creating a game of feminine identification that is not necessarily meant to be autobiographical. Flushing (2004) explores the shopping mall in Queens with the same name: among patterns, glares, and small talks, a view on what the architect Rem Koolhaas would call junkspace. In Blood Sugar (2012) the models walk the catwalk in a neverending circle at the sound of a hypnotic tune that continuously freezes.
«In the works by Cheryl Donegan, images and shapes of little value are re-used in new compositions with an extremely high emotional capital», the curatorial duo Francesco Urbano Ragazzi said, adding that «Cheryl has been one of the first artists who realized that an ecology of images is needed at least as much as an ecology of things in the 21st century».
Text by Benjamin Rousseau
Photos by Scott Rudd