Audrey Flack Paintings Analysis Essay

Audrey Flack, Wheel of Fortune (Vanitas), 1977-1978. Oil over acrylic on canvas, 96 x 96 inches. Courtesy of Gary Snyder Project Space.

Long considered one of the innovators of photorealism, Audrey Flack emerged on the scene in the late 1960s with paintings that embraced magazine reproductions of movie stars along with Matza cracker boxes and other mundane objects, that referred ironically to Pop Art. As one of the first of these artists to enter the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, Flack later came to excel in vanitas paintings that combined painted renderings of black and white photographs along with detailed arrangements of elegant objects including fruits, cakes, chocolates, strings of pearls, lipsticks, tubes of paint, and glass wine goblets.  In works such as Wheel of Fortune (1977-78), she would represent decks of playing cards and other ephemera related to gambling, adding a mirror and human skull, for good measure.  Her recent exhibition of Cibachrome prints, curated by Garth Greenan for Gary Snyder Project Space, is titled “Audrey Flack Paints A Picture” and is accompanied by five actual paintings.  This show reveals the painstaking process employed in making these fresh and original paintings from the late 1970s through the early 1980s during a highly significant and intensely productive period of her career.

( Gary Snyder Project Space, September 16 – November 6, 2010 )


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The Woman Eating (1971)

Artist: Duane Hanson

Artwork description & Analysis: This sculpture is a life-size woman seated at a cafeteria table, plainly dressed, with her bags and packages by her side. The woman is dressed in actual clothes and her belongs, also, are real objects. Overweight, not particularly attractive, Hanson's statue goes against the grain of artists beautifying the female form. Likely to fool the eye, it is only when the viewer gets up close to the work that the tiniest of brush strokes reveal the work's artificiality. Hanson's statues are usually located in the refined spaces of art museums and galleries, which renders imagery of ordinary folk into fine art. Hanson admitted to presenting a social message via his sculptures, expressing a sense of the resignation, emptiness and loneliness of suburban existence. Here, there is an aspect of pathos to the solitary woman eating alone, especially if we consider that within a museum she becomes an object of study and inadvertent stares. As with Chuck Close, Hanson focuses on human beings as his subject matter, rather than the reflective glass and chrome of other Photorealists. Hanson makes his viewers question who is worthy of being an artistic subject; what is the viewer's social relation to the statue/person and any other association between the strange presence and us.

Polyester resin, fiberglass, polychromed in oil paint with clothes, table, chair and accessories - Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

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