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Green Family Art Foundation

BERNADETTE DESPUJOLS:

OH, MAN!

OCTOBER 8, 2022 - JANUARY 29, 2022

2111 Flora Street, Suite 110

Dallas, TX 75201

New York Academy of Art

WE ARE FAMILY

February 1 – March 6, 2022

New York Academy of Art
111 Franklin Street, NYC 10013
212 966-0300

Spinello Projects

Bernadette Despujols:

I Love You, Man

November 30 – January 15, 2022

Spinello Projects presents I Love You, Man, the debut solo gallery exhibition by Venezuelan artist Bernadette Despujols. The exhibition features a suite of oil paintings depicting men who are close to the artist, on view at the Gesamkunstwerk Building at 2930 NW 7th Avenue.

In I Love You, Man Bernadette Despujols paints the closest men in her circle. The paintings are a departure from her usual depictions of women in paintings. In previous paintings of fully nude women, Despujols positioned herself as the subject of her paintings although they were portraits of anonymous unconscious women sourced from pornography made by men. Holding the belief that to be a woman makes other people uncomfortable and ultimately poses a threat to men she turns her gaze and paints the cishet men in her life: friends, lovers, family. Despujols uses the portraiture of her male subjects to experience her relationships with deeper intimacy. Objectification and intersubjectivity (the relation or intersection between people's cognitive perspectives) ebbs and flows between the painter and the painted. She objectifies the men in the paintings at times, focusing solely on one body part or their bare skin and bodies, but the men pose for the pictures with awareness and dignity. Nothing is stolen from them; Despujols may want to position these men ironically as muses but the truth is she defeats the irony of it with pure affinity and care towards the people she paints, leaving the men to decide what they want to wear and show of themselves. In the act of portraiture she experiences the vulnerability of these men through their quiet shyness or awkwardness with themselves, ways that would otherwise challenge the presumed status quo of manhood: tough, aggressive, aloof, qualities of patriarchy that, to Despujols, imprison both men and women in a cycle of violence. The paintings are formally infused with skewed perspectives, foreground and background foibles, and blank, paintless spaces furthering the playfulness she captures by being around the men she loves.

Rachel Uffner Gallery

Bernadette Despujols:

The Vast Ocean in Which the Woman Swims

curated by Ché Morales

September 7 - October 3, 2021

Rachel Uffner Gallery is pleased to present The Vast Ocean in Which the Woman Swims, the gallery’s first solo exhibition with Bernadette Despujols, curated by Ché Morales. This body of work features Despujos’s recent series of paintings and sculptures that confront the objectified view of the female body as informed by her own perspective and experiences. Despujols explores themes that go beyond the expected identity of a woman drawing inspiration from the many dynamic women that have played important and personal roles in her life including her Mother, Grandmothers, sisters, nieces, cousins, friends, and even colleagues that have shaped who she has become.

 

Despujols takes a seemingly sculptural approach to painting as she vigorously fills her canvases with thick and energetic brushstrokes, that at times are also retracted and scraped away to resurface the underpainting. These textural portraits invoke emotional and profound imagery reminiscent of artists such as Alice Neel or Jenny Saville.

 

With these paintings, she portrays various women in all possible scenarios and stages of their lives such as: A collection of portraits of women as young girls, mothers, children, elderly, healthy and sick. Despujols states, “I want to explore the vast ocean in which the woman swims, (one that I am yet to fully understand) one that goes way beyond those absurd expectations of what women should be.”

 

At first glance, some might find it strange to place a “sexualized” sculpture next to the painting of a child or a mother with her children, or an older woman. However, Despujols wants to remind the viewer that the “sexualized” woman was once a little girl that would eventually become an older woman. That a woman is not just one of a certain age, women are of many ages and many faces. She wants to remind everyone that the patriarchy wants to separate women into specific, uniquely stereotyped stages. 

 

For example, Despujols represents how the perception of ideal femininity is ingrained from an early age with the painting of Cassandra and Gala. Here, one figure wears a Smurfette t-shirt referencing the artist’s own childhood memory of watching the cartoon aptly titled, “Los Pitufos” or “The Smurfs". She would always wonder how despite the many male characters with their countless personalities be it sleepy, grumpy, surprising, old, or funny, there was only one “girl,” and she was simply characterized as “pretty”. Despujols transforms this formative memory into one of many visual examples to emphasize the dismissal of the female identity. 

 

Many of her paintings in this show are based off of photographs —some she has taken herself, she has found second hand or were sent to her by friends and family. Despujols finds the process of painting these images as a sort of translation, from one language to another. In this translation, many details may go missing, change or mutate. The image that she produces does not attempt to look photorealistic, or realistic in any way. It is its own version of reality, existing in a realm in which fact and fiction do not exist. A story with a reality that now solely exists on the canvas.

 

A selection of sculptures in the center of the room completes the exhibition. These sculptures are from Despujols' Inflatable Love Dolls series and are comprised of five female busts fabricated from soft latex sex dolls filled with concrete. The inflatable love doll she uses is a representation of the female body; it is both figurative and abstract, as it tries to reproduce the female figure, yet remaining true to its origins as an inflatable structure. Through her practice, Despujols reclaims these agent-less inflatable objects into something completely new. As the concrete begins to set, the weight responds to gravity and transforms the shape of the once static doll into a more substantial human form. Though it is evident that their extremities and heads are missing, the sexual orifices still remain, highlighted, in their original yet impenetrable pink plastic. 

 

Through their transformation, these torsos have now become symbols of an impossible objectification or abuse.They are no longer possible to penetrate, and their pleasure-inducing cavities have been filled. Instead of soft objects with the sole purpose of fulfilling the desire of men in their solitude, they now stand firm like a truncated contemporary version of Hellenistic torsos. Despujols references the Greek goddess Aphrodite as an example of this mythological presence. Aphrodite also embodied themes of love, beauty, pleasure, passion, and procreation. Despujols hopes that the viewer will find these same themes and complexity of character within the portraits surrounding gallery walls. 

 

Bernadette Despujols (b. 1986, Barquisimeto, Venezuela) studied Architecture at the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), where she graduated with honors in 2007. Soon after, she continued her education at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where took classes in architecture, cultural exchange, morphology and anatomy before beginning her endeavors in art making. Despujols taught Architectonic Design at the School of Architecture at the Universidad Central de Venezuela before moving to the US to pursue her MFA in Visual Arts at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) in 2010. Despujols’ artistic practice is highly expansive, as she incorporates a wide range of different media, including painting, sculpture, video and installation. Her current work revolves and questions historical allusions, myths and references regarding the perception of women, sex and contemporary life. She shares her time between her architectonic firm and her art practice. Despujols lives and works in Miami since 2013.

A.I.R. 

CURRENTS: An Overwhelming Response

Curated by Carmen Hermo

Mimi Bai, Sera Boeno, Nikesha Breeze, Becky Brown, Caryl Burtner, Bernadette Despujols, Priscilla Dobler, Debora Hirsch, Elektra KB, Nsenga Knight, Le’Andra LeSeur, Nikki Luna, Stefana McClure, Rosemary Meza- DesPlas, Nelson Morales, Pamela Rush, Alicia Smith, Caroline Wayne, Connie Zheng

January 10 – February 9, 2020

A.I.R. Gallery is proud to present the 6th edition of CURRENTS, an open call exhibition series in which artists respond to current topics, with this iteration addressing the theme of gaslighting and manipulation.

The 19 international artists in this exhibition, CURRENTS: An Overwhelming Response, represent a plurality of voices exploring and pushing back against experiences and ramifications of gaslighting—or manipulations of reality—on individuals, communities, and culture. The title is drawn from Le’Andra LeSeur’s video work, An Overwhelming Response, which tracks the dismissals, denials, and violent backlash to Black women reporting sexual assaults. This title also evokes the artistic responses to the show’s open call, and the exhibition includes a diverse range of media encompassing sculpture, video, photography, painting, textile, and works on paper. Many of these artworks model healing and shifts in perception to bolster self-knowledge and solicit community support in the face of trauma.

Gaslighting undermines, isolates, and divides. The term comes from the 1938 play and 1944 film Gaslight where a woman
is manipulated by her husband to paranoid extremes of self-doubt and anxiety, though she is ultimately vindicated. In the exhibition, Stefana McClure’s accumulative graphite transfer drawing of the film’s subtitles creates a visual field of that emotional turmoil. In vivid color, Becky Brown’s watercolors explore emotional ranges of numbness and revolt, judgment and concern.

In today’s global culture of nationalism and neo-fascism intertwined with misogyny, “fake news” and “straight talk” by men in power foster violence and abuse. Nikki Luna’s bathroom mirror activation and marble sculpture quote Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, in his crass, sexist public comments on rape and women’s bodies. Caryl Burtner takes a scissor to American politics, using anagrams to reveal the duplicity behind members of the current administration. Connie Zheng’s two-channel video narrates U.S. media’s manipulation of perceptions of China and its environmental conditions, especially in the artist’s hometown of Luoyang. Nsenga Knight’s video documentation of a performance restaging speeches by Malcolm X with contemporary African-American Muslims, reveals that the meaning and intentions behind X’s speeches were grossly misstated by U.S. media and leadership. Bernadette Despujols’s disturbing paintings bring wider attention to the violence of Venezuela’s current crisis, where non-governmental media is censored and reality obscured.

Many of the artists in this exhibition explore gaslighting’s impact on relationships with others as well as understand of ourselves. Sera Boeno’s delicate bronze adornments refer to Ottoman-era edicts declaring women as the “ornament of her house,” visualizing women’s silence over the centuries. Debora Hirsch created a mirror in which one’s reflection is gradually overtaken with insistent, insidious verbal and emotional abuse, showing commonplace and life-ending violence in a continuum. Caroline Wayne’s intimate, bedazzled object illustrate dream scenes produced by childhood abuse and trauma bonding. Elektra KB constructs a Survivor Medicine Cabinet out of remnants of an abusive relationship, pairing it with a textile letter alluding to abuse in queer communities. Pamela Rush’s video performance reenacts the words of misogynist, self-hating women in mass media, and LeSeur’s An Overwhelming Response shows the violent skepticism of mass media and internet commentators. Rosemary Meza-DesPlas uses the greyed hair of a lifetime of experience to embroider an image of rage in What You Whispered, Should Be Screamed, and that same sense of power and loss is abstracted in Mimi Bai’s sculptural Ghost.

Importantly, select artists in the exhibition establish new pathways for communication, self-knowledge, and healing through care and by prioritizing empathy and lived experience over traditional notions of expertise. Nikesha Breeze’s Ritual: Visceral: Memory uses ablution, touch, and the recitation of healing text to reclaim bodily knowledge and power. Nelson Morales’s photograph MUXE is a portrait of an elder member of the artist’s muxe community in Oaxaca, Mexico, where this third gender is valued and celebrated. Alicia Smith’s two video projections insist on the realities of trauma with repeated calls of “I Believe You” and by honoring indigenous Xicano women. Priscilla Dobler uses indigenous weaving traditions and sound to herald a rebirth of society through storytelling.

The work on view in CURRENTS: An Overwhelming Response represents the final selection from an overwhelming response
to the open call itself, attesting the importance of naming and visualizing all forms of gaslighting and abuse in 2020. By presenting this array of works, A.I.R. Gallery continues to build on expanded conversations about feminism in art, allowing for the works of these powerful women and gender non-conforming artists to foster connection and communication.

LVL3

Circle Within a Square

1.11.20 - 2.16.20

Bernadette Despujols and Brittney Leeanne Williams