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Metamorphic: Karen Swenholt and Sasha Blanton

Loving Cruelty: Karen Swenholt\'s \"Daphne.\"

By Jason Hughes | Posted 11/28/2007

Metamorphic: Karen Swenholt and Sasha Blanton

At Gallery Imperato through Dec. 22

Gallery Imperato's current exhibit features the figurative works of Karen Swenholt and Sasha Blanton. Each artist's work induces a sense of dreamy poetry that at times hints toward vaguely illustrated personal narratives. Swenholt incorporates a poem with each piece to help contextualize her work, while Blanton has the traditional artist statement posted nearby in the gallery. The figures in Swenholt's chunky terra-cotta, bronze, and resin sculptures possess a great deal of gravity, as if angels falling from above or the ones who have already hit the ground. Their severely imperfect bodies-with missing limbs, exaggerated disproportions, and stained flesh-appear to be anchored where they rest. A sense of passiveness and urgency is displayed-victims of loving cruelty, beggars for acceptance, souls that are broken and fragmented, frozen and unflinching through it all. With "Beginning of Wings" a young girl stands tall, feet together appearing well-grounded, even though her arms look to have been torn off at the shoulder. A subtle blend between the figurative works of Alberto Giacometti and Edgar Degas, Swenholt's angelic amputee seems to be a biographic homage for a loved one.Other pieces appear to insinuate a more autobiographical inspiration stuck in limbo between reaching for heaven while living in hell. In "Winged Man," an older man reclines on his left elbow atop a blank pedestal staring at a pair of dice. His body is disproportioned and covered in moldy pigments, like obscure growths or an unknown disease consuming his flesh. Out of his shoulder blade grows a single wing, and he is missing his right arm. In "Driftwood," a female figure appears to have crashed to the floor, missing her left arm as her right arm has been disconnected at the shoulder lying next to her. Her body looks firm while absorbing the impact. The majority of Swenholt's work on display feels psychologically heavy and traumatic.Blanton's figure paintings are large white washes that reduce the figures to ghostly fragmentations. Their featureless bodies melt into the canvas by washing layers of paint over them until they nearly fade away. Blanton appears to harness a few traditional references, borrowing figure studies from old masters while rendering them in a way that suggests entropy of the classical idea or the figure itself. Works such as "Inanis II" depict two female figures frozen in motion as they walk across the picture plane. Their zombielike postures suggest more of a wandering rather than any real sense of direction, much like the painting itself. "Tergere VIII" is a classical figure study of a strapping man whose genitals have been more or less censored. These are Blanton's strongest two works here and make the remainder look rudimentary and blasé. While the grouping of these two artists' work makes sense stylistically, conceptually they do very little to cross-pollinate one another-although there is an overwhelming sense of the fragmented self in each artist's work. ★

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