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Little Deaths, Curated by Sara Nightingale, Spring/ Break Art Show - Skylight at Moynihan Station NYC

Little Deaths

Curated by Sara Nightingale

Spring/ Break Art Show, 2016, Room #3101

Skylight at Moynihan Station
421 8th Ave. at West 31st St.
Wednesday, March 2 - Sunday, March 6 12:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Monday, March 7 12:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Little Deaths brings together two artists who examine opposite ends of life’s spectrum. Christian Little’s Exhibitionists paintings address sex (the origin of life) and the “look at me” culture of oversharing, while Monica Banks’ sculptures of figures on the cusp of death consider life’s demise.

The French idiom for “orgasm", la petite mort, seems counterintuitive. Why the association of death with sex, the ultimate act of creation, replication, ⌘copy⌘paste? The little death can also refer to a short period of malaise, transcendence or climax that comes with the metaphorical and temporary suspension of one’s “life force”. Moreover, it has been used to describe the state of being one experiences when immersed in a great work of literature or art.

But when is death ever “little"? Or sex deadly? The answer is all too often.

Monica Banks’ sculptures of miniature porcelain figures - humans as well as bees, mice and birds - depict organic forms on the threshold between life and death or replicas of the deceased. Her “domestic monuments” to suffering and lifeless creatures suggest narratives addressing the mass graves of major disaster sites, both natural and man-made, in which human forms are numerous and anonymous. Sometimes just one or two small dead beings evoke the moment a death is discovered or remembered. Tragedies both large and small are rendered in a modest scale, bringing into perspective an individual’s relationship to historical events.

Banks’ figures are presented on porcelain cakes and cake stands, which serve as tributes to the “victims” and stem from her empathy for her subjects. The cakes also explore themes of consumption, ephemerality and craft, as well as gender roles in the home. Broken dishes recall Julian Schnabel’s plate paintings of the 1980’s, but in contrast to his grandiose and baroque presentations, Banks’ assemblages of tiny “abject pottery” serve as humble artifacts of domesticity, archeological remnants of family, food and love.

Christian Little’s acrylic paintings on wood panel examine a voyeur culture preoccupied with sex, drama and the lives of others. His scenarios of "imagined actualities" are simultaneously voyeuristic and participatory, erotic and sterile, stiff and fluid, analytic and absurd.

Little’s Exhibitionists series, in which he places human “sculptures” on top of pedestals, references shunga, Japanese erotic prints from the 18th Century. However, while most shunga contain sexually explicit imagery, Little’s Exhibitionists paintings create sexual innuendo subtly, using abstraction and an elaborate combination of painting styles to depict his figures and their implied activities. Hair pulling, straddling, the lifting of fabric, movement under that fabric, smoking, etc… are some of the pursuits of his willing protagonists. The figures in the paintings seem unaware that they are being watched, though it is clear they are putting on a show for a suggested audience, viewers in an art gallery, perhaps, an ironic jab at the human desire for spectacle and immortality. Contemporary culture’s addiction to oversharing is intimated in the format of the paintings; their square shapes mimic Instagram posts and profile pics.

Little challenges the dimensional limitations of traditional painting through the use of trompe l’oeil and decorative painting techniques, using paint self-consciously to address painting’s history. Faux finishing techniques and simulated textures act as visual anchors in these wildly mannered works, alluding to the material world as well as the virtual and imagined.

Monica Banks lives and works in East Hampton, NY. Her work is held in the permanent collections of the Parrish Art Museum, The Islip Art Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art at U Mass, Amherst, and The Catherine Konner Sculpture Park. She has exhibited at White Box, the Center for Architecture in NYC, The Carriage House at the Islip Art Museum, the Heckscher Art Museum and Sara Nightingale Gallery among other venues. She created “ Faces: Times Square,” a block-long sculpture which stood in Times Square from 1996-2009, for which she won an award from the NYC Public Design Commission. Her permanent public works are located in the Bronx, Binghamton NY, and Charlotte NC. She has been exhibiting sculpture and creating site-specific installations since 1989.

Christian Little lives and works in Kingston, NY. He earned his BFA ('05) and MFA ('15) in Painting/Drawing from SUNY New Paltz. He has exhibited at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Projects in Long Island City and The Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art in Kingston, NY. Recent solo shows include The Silent Barn in Brooklyn, NY, Sara Nightingale Gallery in Water Mill, NY and The Hewn Arts Center in Jersey City, NJ.

Sara Nightingale Gallery
visit/ ship: 688 Montauk Highway
mail: PO Box 1061
Water Mill, NY 11976