Show & Tell: The Artists of “Engender” Are Reimagining How Painters Depict Gender
By Henri Neuendorf
How do we paint gender? And how might artists paint their way out of that constricting binary?
The 17 painters included in “Engender,” a show at Los Angeles’s Kohn Gallery, aim to tackle these questions. The artists, ranging from well-known figures like Nicole Eisenmanand Hernan Bas to rising stars like Firelei Báez and Tschabalala Self, contribute to a conversation about how to expand and deconstruct the visual language of gender identity.
“I think the contemporary mindset doesn’t want to be classified,” the show’s curator Joshua Friedman, an associate director at Kohn Gallery, told artnet News. “We’re looking at this through art and how not wanting to be confined into one of two categories is being portrayed by artists. The artists in the show are trying to break away from that.”
Don’t expect any one particular style, though. “Gender can exist in many different ways,” Friedman said. “You’ll see that no two works look the same. The artists all go about this very differently.”
Thus, Sadie Laska’s expressionist paintings feature abstracted, genderless figures in frenzies meant to suggest “avatars and icons emerging from the basic problems surrounding identity in the digital age,” notes a gallery statement.
Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s figurative paintings, meanwhile, center on fractured images of black queer men, muddling the sense of the picture plane and the codes of masculine and feminine at the same time.
Jesse Mockrin’s oil-on-canvas compositions are sharp riffs on the visual language of Rococo portraiture that imagine new, androgynous, or unisexual protagonists.
“I think it’s an area that’s not been given enough exposure, but it’s a very timely topic, politically,” Friedman said. “Hopefully this moment can lead to a dialogue, as more shows happen.”