Beauty and the Beast Both Defines And Obliterates The Figurative
Beauty and the Beast is a compelling two-person show that both upends and celebrates formal figurative tradition. It is an exhibition of contrasts: the personal and the political, the interior and the external. The two artists, Jorg Dubin and Andrea Patrie, are disparate in style and subject, but their works speak to each other here, a kind of call and response between the most defined and the more evocative articulation of the physical body.
Patrie’s work is focused inward, on images that are primarily of the female figure in intimate poses. Her work features thick, confident, often squarely applied brush strokes and almost impressionist images captured in oil that evoke a strong sense of emotion and highly sensual physicality. Dubin, who also works with deeply layered oil paint images, renders often precise portraits, as well as some distorted images; his work features political and cultural references that heighten and discuss our current socio-political perspective.
If Patrie’s works are both introspective and intimate, Dubin’s are more external and confrontative. Both artists use a defined sense of palette that immediately identifies them: Dubin’s are dark with rich, often somber paint; Patrie uses pastel shades riven by brighter orange or touches of vivid green. Her softer shades to some extent both belie and reinforce the personally charged boldness of her images.
Working in oil on linen, Dubin offers conceptually perfect, large-scale work that makes the intense, bold political nature of these images all the more compelling. From Russia with love gives viewers a beautiful, topless young woman sprawled in a chair, sporting Russian police insignia on her dark hat; wearing thickly-heeled ankle boots and black shorts. The shorts and boots shine as if vinyl. Her well-muscled arms and black attire — and the hat — signify domination, evoke images of an S & M dominatrix. And she is cradling, in her lap, a large-sized, gilded Trump “T.” Her facial expression is both vaguely pleased and introspective, as if she wondered whether her efforts at seduction and domination were even worth the prize/price.
His Room Service gives us another startling Trumpian-era image: a nubile woman, nude except for heels and black stockings, peeing into a glass. Then we have images of the man/monster himself, with Oligarchs, in which Trump’s face appears to be melting around his gaping lips like a molten image. M.A.G.A. a portrait gives the viewer another nude image, this of a man bent over, a small American flag protruding from his anus.
Born in Oregon, the Laguna Beach-based artist has a distinct focus in this exhibition, using his prodigious skill as a figurative painter and acerbic wit to bear down on the current political administration. That said, his intensity and lacerating approach is not new for Dubin. Past bodies of work may be less overtly political, but are no less brutal; works are often sexual in nature without a veneer of sensuality. They are compelling but harsh, seemingly devoid of sentimentality, existing with a sense of isolation and within a general cultural malaise. His are works that shimmer with both anger and beauty. His Studio Girls series features women in various stages of undress, some languid, some more alert, some exhausted, some inquiring, some caught in acts of personal intimacy. Dubin’s portraits of Friends and Family give us a look at the interior, the soul of a person; some are costumed in the attire of their professions: clown, cop, cook. He has series of nudes, fighters, still life images, and paintings of unyielding landscapes ranging from a desert dune — lonely save for one car, to deserted airport runways. There are more traditional commissioned works of portraiture, and experimental works that are abstract in approach even if recognizable.
His works at Launch are taken from his Culture series, and are perhaps the harshest in terms of his approach to subject matter. These are glorious paintings, but what they depict is painful. To a large extent, Dubin’s work is both rebellious and fraught; he is giving us darkness and defiance on a large and beautifully constructed platter.
Although they are two very different artists with different approaches and images, Patrie, too, infuses her work with a sense of defiance. Hers is of a more quiet nature, meeting us head on with a passionate independence and visceral spirit. While figurative, her work frequently hovers into the impressionistic; her subjects are primarily women and her shaping of them here almost entirely intimate. Working in oil pastel on paper, she gives us a wonderful look at a woman holding a plant in Me with my Plant that Looks Like Meat. In one incisive work, she looks at being alone, at being whole, at being a nurturer. Odalisque II, as with many of her works here, is comprised of oil on canvas, the paint generously layered in application. This painting gives us a discreet full-body look at a nude woman, taken from the side. It is graceful and complete. The woman turns her face to the viewer as if surprised to be observed, but not particularly discomfited by the revelation. Undisturbed shows us a woman whose facial features are only partially realized. She sits on her knees, leaning back, legs spread, in a position that once observed appears voyeuristic. The detailed flowered sheet on which she is seated includes rosy flowers placed in such a way beneath her body as to remind the viewer of fertility or the opposite of conception. Critura presents a seated woman leaning to the right; she is nude, her eyes ringed with blue and green as if she is wearing a facial mask; her expression is startled, as if caught in some private moment. This oil on canvas work also includes a vivid green leather plant, a vividly textured mixed media element that draws the eye away from the woman, and in fact creates the sense that the woman may be dominated by the plant itself. The sole male subject depicted in this exhibition is Boy on His Bed. Here, a young nude man sits, knees raised, features and individual body parts obscured. It is a quiet moment, and like all of Patrie’s works here, focuses on the interior, and on the most personal.
Patrie’s lone landscape in the exhibition, My House, provides another slice of intimate life, an exterior that seems peaceful and private, with a resolutely green and fecund background beckoning the viewer from across a pool around a path beside the house. Poolside, a comfortable gold chair waits, on the table next to it is a plant, small but vivid, the only fully realized living thing in the work. The house is seen from the side, closed off, as if to stress the element of “my” in the title. We are permitted to look at this personal space, but only at the discretion of the artist.
Together, Patrie and Dubin both give us a look at exterior perceptions and personal feelings; these are strong, potent works that depict the human body and soul.