Close One Eye, February 8th - March 10th, 2019
Solo Exhibition at Slag Gallery, 56 Bogart, Brooklyn NY
Slag Gallery is pleased to present Close One Eye, a new body of work by Tirtzah Bassel. This exhibition is the artist’s second solo exhibition at Slag Gallery.
Tirtzah Bassel’s paintings are glimpses of life in public that concentrate the politics of space. In the works featured in Close One Eye, the artist renders ideology and power through color and composition with candid, humanistic depictions of everyday actions in shared spaces. Conceived through observation, they reveal their energy through disparate color juxtapositions combined with perspective shifts and figuration that redefine the viewer’s connection with the works’ subjects.
In each painting, Bassel portrays or alludes to a “non-place,” a constructed space that exists for people to occupy temporarily. She is drawn to the proclivity of these spaces to dissolve the line between the concepts of public and private. The inhabitants of a “non-place” seem anonymous, yet their individuality is made vulnerable by their use of the space, a concept that Bassel has previously examined with depictions of airport security checkpoints. In Close One Eye, however, the premise of her work becomes more personal: A shopping cart will fill with personal effects; a search on a library’s computer may reveal one’s interior life; a visit to a holy site bares a spiritual need. Bassel takes these and other locations, instinctually employing her painting knife in both broad and fine, deft strokes to capture her subjects. Limiting her palette and eschewing strict perspective, Bassel uses unalloyed color to produce her clashing fields of paint that command the viewer’s gaze.
The title work, “Close One Eye,” depicts the face and neck of a man as he covers his right eye with his right hand. Comprising only two colors, Bassel had sketched the moment while watching individuals take eye exams at a governmental office, their biometric information probed in a public space while they unselfconsciously expose a potential vulnerability. In “Grand Army Plaza BPL,” a group of five black women attired in hues of blue sit hip-to-hip on a bench, each one minding a pink baby. Bassel enclosed the tight space with a bright yellow backdrop and floor, the repetitive arrangement of the women and their wards pointing to a larger pattern that continues well beyond the borders of the canvas. In these two works as well as the others, the artist’s striking and expressive style distills the emotional composition of the scenes they capture. In so doing, she repositions her subjects in relation to their surroundings and invites the viewer into a new relationship with what they see.