Autumn Ramsey at Galerie Crèvecœur, Paris
Ramsey’s exhibition builds on a cultural inclination in Western history that the body is simply one more object among others, part of the physical world, not entirely rational and a source of disruption that needs to be controlled. The social construction of difference that developed from distrust has correlations in ideas of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation and Ramsey’s work uses it to look at the role of tradition in the shaping of contemporary myths.
Autumn Ramsey’s paintings often use a central image to direct the narrative. In many works, the narrative is iconic, using imagery abstracted from a range of cultural and historic sources. For example, Ramsey’s painting The Sphinx builds directly on Gustave Moreau’s 1864 painting Oedipus and the Sphinx. Moreau’s painting was a fresh treatment of the established subject of the meeting between Oedipus and the Sphinx on the road to Delphi, the mythological story in which Oedipus heroically purges Thebes of the Sphinx – a female monster. Unlike older works, in Moreau’s version, the Sphinx is antagonistic, showing active opposition to Oedipus. Other paintings by Moreau depict a triumphant sphinx atop a mound of victims.
Ramsey’s sphinxes, birds of prey, and apex predators, consciously feed on other animals, often by force and in the context of her practice they may be understood both as archetypical protectorate totems as well as metaphorical phalluses. Ramsey has situated herself as predator and prey, producer and consumer, and it’s the psychological complexity of the relationships between her characterizations and the play that they make visible that is at the core of her practice. Her work adopts an intentionally symbolic painting style, often with mythological subjects and narratives. Her depictions of the sphinxes in this exhibition for example, especially Red Sphinx takes a female form that lures us into an increasingly complex and compromising situation. The gaze that her works share between figures suggests a mirroring where aspects of the same figure recognize and confront each other.
at Galerie Crèvecœur, Parishttp://www.galeriecrevecoeur.com/until 28 April 2018