artist / participant
Amy Cutler (Poughkeepsie, New York, 1974) has produced an outstanding body of work over the last decade based on finely executed drawings and watercolours that recreate a rich world inhabited by women and pervaded - in an allegorical, surreal and feministic way - by something akin to the foundation of a new world. The unexpected narrative tension that emanates from her drawings immediately caught the specialist critics’ attention, and she was subsequently chosen to participate in major exhibitions such as the 2004 Whitney Biennial and the 2005 Greater New York at the PS1/MoMA, as well as being included in important collections such as those of the Hammer Museum at UCLA, the Walter Art Center in Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, to name just a few.
The narrative dimension of her drawings is in keeping with a trend that has emerged in recent years on the contemporary art scene thanks to the artists Marcel Dzama, Barry McGee, John Bankston and others, whose unique vision of the world invites a non-conformist interpretation of iconographies from, or inspired by, the illustrations in children's literature, comics and mass audiovisual culture.
In a world in which digital drawing proliferates, Amy Cutler has forged a reputation for herself based on manually produced work that is increasingly polished, precise and conceptually complex, almost resembling ethereal 19th-century watercolours but with a seed that desecrates the original. Her female imagery immerses us in fanciful stories not unlike the traditional tales passed on down the ages both orally and in written form. The main characters are always women, represented as a group and attired in clothing immediately identifiable with a particular period: for example, patterned dresses and hair buns that recall certain moments in the history of the United States. In the artificial world she portrays, clothing holds great significance for Amy Cutler as a crucial cultural reference. The women are featured as an organised group, either engaged in a specific task or like pioneers or colonists en route to a world waiting to be discovered. By presenting us with these domestic heroines as they adapt to their environment, her work also contains something of the anthropological reconstruction, as well as a highly personal poetry that runs through both the prosaic, ordinary scenes and also the much more expressive, oneiric ones.
In this exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía - her first in Europe - Amy Cutler has endowed the imagery of her paintings and drawings with three dimensions. In her most ambitious project to date, drawing has become an installation. Although she had never previously done any sculpture, when she was asked to create a specific project for the museum the space itself persuaded her to use this technique. The sculptures have been produced in association with a New York studio specialising in ceramics - she made the original moulds from which the studio produced hundreds of figures. The connection between all the women, a type of female solidarity network, is clearly the theme of the installation, which like all Amy Cutler's work contains a reference to the construction of identity based on work and common effort. In this case, winding wool into a ball for weaving or knitting - a task common to numerous cultures – becomes a highly effective theatrical metaphor. The women around and on a rustic table, almost reminiscent of the Last Supper in Christian iconography, all participate through their work in that liberating process of transformation, prising open the bud to reveal the body of a new woman.
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