for bad bots

Suzy Spence

Hunters and Hustlers: Feminism and Theatricality in Suzy Spence and Heather Morgan

February 15, 2018 - Wen Tao

A major element of early feminist art criticism came down to detective work. Outing the male gaze in paintings of female subjects was akin to using black light to reveal traces of blood at a crime scene. Form, facture and viewpoint served as evidence in a forensic process – manifestations of objectification, voyeurism and idealization were exposed.

Nowadays, the crime scene is complicated, especially where female authorship is concerned. In paintings of women by women, thanks to a sense of intimate self-knowledge, what has begun to emerge are emphatic – indeed, empathetic – attempts to maneuver the inherent theatricality of being subjected to the gazed. The subject can become complicit and resigned to being a displayed object, or lay out an elaborate performative trap in which the unaware spectator devours the bait. Two current shows present different but equally intriguing examples of such maneuvering: Suzy Spence’s A Night Among the Horses, ongoing at Sears Peyton Gallery in Chelsea, and Heather Morgan’s Heavenly Creatures, at David Schweitzer Gallery, last month, in Bushwick.

Suzy Spence: A Night Among the Horses

January 24, 2018 - William Corwin

Suzy Spence is not afraid to go where our darker thoughts wander when we think of the regalia and and ritual of the hunt. Amidst the overt presence of violent death, the gnashing of the hounds' teeth, and the sweaty flanks of the steeds is the other primal urge of sex.

Both males and females don the plumage of pink coats and top hats in an aristocratic dance of seduction, but in this case the artist has chosen to lampoon the male gaze by pushing the fetishization of the woman hunter into the wider zone of sexualized object. The Optimist (2017) and Untitled Riders (2017) present huntresses in various states of dishabille, while Death by Black Horse II (2017) doubles as both a bloody trampling of a rider and a retelling of Pasiphae and the bull. The loose and fluid brushstrokes of the monochromatic flashe works lend a witty spontaneity reminiscent of Thomas Rowlandson's pithy caricatures, while the polychrome pieces are darker and a bit more stiff-upper-lip.

THE LIST: Suzy Spence at Sears-Peyton

January 11, 2018 - David Cohen

Luxuriance is more than a painterly quality in the work of Suzy Spence. It is a symbolic form. Bravura paint handling conveys the very sense of sport that is her motif in images of the hunt. Riders throw themselves with panache into the chase without attendant loss of elegance or control. Their very sweat is decorous in an almost heraldic balance of vitality and poise. There is a corresponding dialectic in Spence’s attitude towards her subject matter. Her catalogue essayist, Amy Rahn, deftly describes the feminist and class critique at the heart of her gender-bending approach while equally acknowledging her personal investment in riding, her participation in the culture that she observes. “The way these paintings slip—between genre and critique of genre, between a love of the sartorial poses of foxhunting and a critique of their masculine power, and between portraiture and figurative painting—give us a glimpse of something dark and rich that hammers the ground between critical thought and sensuous painting.” The full throttle romance of “the drag” (the term for hunting with a substitute fox segues sexily into the fey innocence of Spence’s idealized sorority of latter-day Artemises) speaks to an artist who hunts with the hounds and runs with the hares. DAVID COHEN

Download Article (PDF)