Amy Bessone is at the Alison Jacques Gallery her work is thoughtful and poetic but retains an acerbic criticality through its treatment of kitschy objects and images at once pillorying stereotypical objectification of woman while also redeeming somewhat the things she paints by adding depth and empathy where there was previously just a surface. ‘She resizes and recontextualizes prototypical “bad objects,” such as figurines of busty, non-Western women that are at once titillating and too tacky to elicit any kind of compelling desire. Even more discomfiting might be Bessone’s frequent engagement with sentimentality or preciousness—two terms that have always been levied against the “handicrafts” of women.’ William J. Simmons
There is a sense of having it both ways and Simmons is right to point it out, this quality perhaps ten years ago would have struggled for justification in the time of deep irony but in the new sentimentality that has emerged in recent times its themes are on point. Its worth seeing the work in the context of say a Jeff Koons which will immediately confirm our assertion that Bessone does bring more to table than she started with; while Koon’s leaves us entirely drowning in fraff and camp consumerism.
Bessone achieves her transfiguration by treating the figurines of busty woman or pompous men as if they were people sitting for a portrait and as such while this is a subtle shift it gives the ‘bad objects’ (Simmons) a humanity and tenderness. The use of: colour, soft washes and glimmers of detail, the use of light and a vague sketchiness combined with areas of high detail add to overall sensitivity of the images. Individually they are a pleasure to look at and overall they ask us to question the kinds of meaning that they once held. To put differently from Simmons and others who have made this point; Bessone takes an over-determined stiff little thing and introduces ambiguity into it, turning like a creative alchemist stereotype into allegory, affirmation of bias into satire of perception. These works are well worth seeing for the pleasure they give visually and the intellectual game being played out by the artist who is breathing life and opening space up for the viewer’s projections.
Alison Jacques Gallery
The work of American artist Amy Bessone draws on representations of the female figure throughout history. Described by Bessone as “feminine archetypes”, these subjects form a central component of her paintings and sculptures, and reflect a range of sources, including ancient marble nudes, Renaissance reliefs and personal souvenirs. As the focal point of her evocative and playful landscapes, the artist’s longstanding engagement with the female form relates to her desire to develop an artistic practice that is accessible. As she has commented, “what is more universally relatable than the human body?” Bessone’s meditations are informed by an interest to subvert existing portrayals of women in the cultural sphere, and the artist is equally passionate about citing art historical tropes which may appear in opposition to contemporary feminist ideals. Found objects are another key aspect of Bessone’s practice. The items she cites within her work, especially in relation to her small-scale figurines and ceramic works, have been termed by Bessone as her “muses”.
Bessone was born in 1970 in New York, USA. She studied in Paris and Amsterdam from 1989-1995, earning a BFA from Parsons Paris School of Design, and received further education at De Ateliers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The artist lives and works in Los Angeles, California, Recent exhibitions include Paint, Porcelain and Pulp: Amy Bessone, Francesca DiMattio, and Natalie Frank, Salon 94, New York (2019), Reclamation Island, The Pit, Los Angeles (2019), NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. (2016) which toured from the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015), and Amy Bessone, Kunsthall Stavanger, Stavanger (2014). Bessone’s work features in a number of museum collections including Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Frac Bretagne, Châteaugiron. Her work has also been acquired by foundations, including Rennie Museum, Vancouver, and Rubell Family Collection, Miami.
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