Night Falls On Caroline Walker’s Sunset

at Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles (Through March 10, 2018)
Reviewed by Emily Nimptsch

With its twinkling city lights in the distance, seductive glow of the illuminated swimming pool below, and sumptuous sheen of the satin nightgown worn by the seated woman in the foreground, the painting Tinseltown (2017) and all of the other works on display in Sunset — the debut exhibition from London-based figurative painter Caroline Walker’s at Anat Ebgi — delight the eye and highlight the lavish lifestyle of a chic, mature woman living in the Hollywood Hills. Through the twelve oil paintings and works on paper displayed here, she is depicted lounging in the pool, trying on clothes and brunching at the famed Beverly Hills Hotel. Although this David Hockney-esque realm of fantastical wealth and luxury is enviable, one cannot help but feel a twinge of sadness hanging in the air. Perhaps this melancholy stems from the fact that she is all alone. Ultimately, Sunset takes the viewer on a tour of the most glamourous haunts of Hollywood’s rich and famous while simultaneously revealing this woman’s most private thoughts and desires.

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Caroline Walker, Tinseltown, 2017.

As consumers of movies, music, and television, the many members of the public are fascinated by the inner worlds of celebrities. This enthrallment could possibly originate in the assumption that people of wealth and power do not have problems. This poignant collection wholeheartedly rejects that notion with the humanization of our protagonist.

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Caroline Walker, Blow Dry Study, 2017.

Through the gallery-provided reading material, we soon learn that her name is Suzan. As a former Miss Colorado, she met Walker in Palm Springs three years ago. The two women immediately hit it off and Walker invited her to model for some paintings in preparation for Sunset. The artist then rented a home near the Sunset Strip for a day and Suzan acted out these scenes of leisure. Here, Suzan is playing the role of an aging actress and the viewer is witnessing a day in her life.

Through this cinematic career choice, the manufactured nature of this collection and its Hollywood setting, themes of moviemaking and the Los Angeles lifestyle easily come to mind. Here, Walker is playing into our expectations of the city’s stereotypical affluent woman. Even though we know this extravagance is all akin to movie magic, we still buy into the fantasy. Intrigued by this phenomenon, Walker explores it in depth and theorizes that human brain secretly yearns for a comfortable and luscious modus vivendi.

Piercing a hole in this picture perfect illusion, viewers might pick up on this character’s sadness through her absent facial expression. In nearly every work in this series, we see a woman in doubt and pain. Although she is surrounded by hair stylists and pool boys, her interaction with them is minimal and her eyes often appear glazed over. She is clearly thinking about somewhere else she would rather be. This faraway look is actually reminiscent of one seen in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880–1881): in the middle of all the excitement of this get-together, we see a woman drinking a glass of water. Most of the other party-goers are chatting or looking at others in the scene. She is not. She is just staring into space, engrossed in her own thoughts.

To read the rest of this review, go to Riot Material Magazine: http://www.riotmaterial.com/night-falls-on-caroline-walkers-sunset/

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