A.I.R. Gallery is pleased to present Anywhere Out of the World, an exhibition of new paintings by Susan Bee from 2018 to the present. Bee’s mythological paintings use archetypes as iconic flashpoints for contemporary social and personal struggles. Women appear as monsters and romantic heroines, angels ascend a ladder to a place beyond the picture frame, crowds attend a hallucinogenic rally for voting rights. The fantastical and historical are put in direct dialogue with the visionary art of the romantic sublime.
The paintings in this show—whether art historical or fictive in subject matter—examine the place of the artist in relation to a larger world. Anywhere Out of the World, 2019, re-interprets a 1914 self-portrait by Chagall, which, in turn, was inspired by a line by Baudelaire—N'importe où hors du monde. For Bee, the painting speaks to the artist’s sense of entrapment within the fragmentation and alienation of our current moment, with only a giant paintbrush as a tool of defense. Emerging from a similarly art-historical lineage, Demonology, 2018, is based on a lithograph by James Ensor but could also be read as a self-portrait, reconfigured to include a female figure and to provoke a feminist reading of the image.
Other paintings illustrate the dystopian dreamscapes and heroic journeys of the present. In Under Water, 2019, a shark and sailboat are tossed by a rising seascape while affective abstractions and huddled female figures look on, confronting the ecological disasters that characterize our era. Votes for Women, 2018, painted in honor of the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage in 1918, both commemorates this momentous movement while also suggesting the long and uncertain road ahead for equal rights for women.
Expressionist and idyllic elements explode, with a riot of pop imagery, linear gestures, and layers of paint. These works are homages, but also confrontations. This syncretic blend of the remembered and remade turns historical monumentality on its head.