Nathalie Karg Gallery is pleased to present ‘X’, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Jesse Mockrin and Elsa Sahal.
‘X’ frames a conversation between two mid-career artists, each immersed in her own philosophical, thematic and technical trajectories, who nonetheless find numerous points of dialog and exchange. ‘X’ might variously be understood as an intersection, a collaboration, a multiplication, or an excision.
Throughout the exhibition, fingers and figures intertwine, gestures are liberated from their original contexts, and bodies are frozen in the midst of dramatic action. Mockrin isolates sections of European Old Master paintings, and reworks them as compositions subverted by her radical editing. In Sahal’s ceramic sculptures, abstracted forms waver in and out of bodily representation, gender identification and conventional standards of beauty and ugliness, transcendence and debasement.
While neither are formalists, Mockrin and Sahal are both deeply invested in the unique possibilities of their respective media. Oil paint and clay share a breadth of expressive range, capable of flawless perfection and visceral abjection. They are also both naturally suited to the depiction of the human form. In this exhibition, oil paint and clay manifest both mainstream and marginal embodiments of feminine beauty, desire, desirability and power.
In Mockrin’s paintings, figures embrace and struggle, in ambiguous, eroticized interactions that might equally be consensual or coercive. Mockrin borrows from historical European painting mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries, excerpting and expanding details from mythical, biblical and historical narratives. She particularly focuses in these paintings, most by male artists, on the ubiquitous depiction of violence towards women, including aestheticized scenes of rape. Mockrin is also drawn to ambiguous representations of gender in historical works, which she exaggerates in her destabilized, unsettled but nonetheless beguilingly beautiful oil paintings.
Sahal, like Mockrin, consciously positions her practice in relation to the long arc of art history, particularly to the history of sculpture. Like Mockrin, she finds herself simultaneously enraptured and enraged by that history, especially by its (mis)treatment of female subjects and perspectives. Her ceramic sculptures – which are themselves the outcomes of intimate, tactile interactions between the artist and her clay – often describe fragments of bodies, enlarged and abstracted. They exist on a sliding scale between experience and pictorialism – between describing the lived and felt experience of her body and describing a body as it might be seen, beneath clothes and cosmetics, abstracted in a picture or in a photograph.