Larissa Bates is a remarkable painter. She is deeply engaged with process as well as narrative and her paintings describe a particular fantasy world. With the history of painting at her brush’s tip, from Poussin to Persian miniatures, she combines landscape and portrait (and sometimes science fiction) with a style that is both formal and outsider. Tiny figures repeat, reappear, dominate, fold, attack, cry, capture one-another, and hold each other. They are leaders and followers, soldiers, babies, and wrestlers. All of Larissa’s characters are men. She explores masculinity (and therefore, in a way, femininity) in an untraditional way ? extracting stereotypes and creating allegories to define their roles. Women aren’t usually present in the paintings, but as a woman, Larissa’s presence as the creator is keenly felt ? she controls her characters’ bodies and actions, but also let’s them lead the way though the landscape.
Larissa’s paintings are intricately detailed, profoundly imaginative, considered creations. In a recent series of miniature paintings, wrestlers struggle against a background of craggy mountains and billowing clouds. The palette is muted and limited. The same form repeats to create muscle, boulder, and sky, making a nearly seamless scene. The lines in this work are careful but soft and the surfaces of the paintings undulate.
Yet in other paintings, Larissa’s lines are harder and colors are more saturated. The surface pops. Her Napolean characters (who reappear throughout different series) appear here in their uniform black and white, standing out from a dense green ground and a deeply royal blue sky. This landscape contains brightly colored plants, flowers, and trees in their most distinctive form ? like idealized versions of the ones found in the world.
In the world of Larissa’s paintings incongruous events occur with the most perfect nonchalance. Wrestlers appear in the mountains ? a goat might be observing their fight. Beams from without might point to moments of contact. A group of “Lederhosen boys” hold a seance, bolts of electricity growing from their hands. Despite the paintings’ small scale, once you enter, they are completely consuming.
Photo (left): Larissa Bates, Cloaked Lederhosen Boys Electric LOWERShock Seance _72 Photo (right): Larissa Bates, Untitled(AfterKerstiaendeKeuninck’sMountainousLandscapew_Waterfall)
2009 MELISSA LEVIN
MELISSA LEVIN is an independent curator, writer, and arts manager. She is currently Program Manager in Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Artist Residencies Department, overseeing the Workspace studio residency program for emerging visual artists and writers. Melissa received her BA in Visual Art and Art History from Barnard College. Previously, she worked at Artforum International Magazine, Andrea Rosen Gallery, and The Whitney Museum of American Art. Melissa has curated shows at Cuchifritos Gallery, ISE Cultural Foundation, Andrea Rosen Gallery, LMCC, and Taylor De Cordoba Gallery, Los Angeles. Melissa also writes for Sadie Magazine.
Photo (left): Melissa Levin (right) at the event of her exhibition at ISE NY Gallery
Photo (right): Installation view of PEC exhibition “Global Fabrics Common Threads” in 2009 curated by Jeanne Gerrity and Melissa Levin