press release

VW (VeneKlasen/Werner) is pleased to present Hit Your Head!, an exhibition of new works by Los Angeles-based artist Amy Bessone, on view from 2 March through 21 April. Hit Your Head! is the artist's first exhibition in Berlin.

Amy Bessone's tenacious pursuit of figuration in painting forms a radical artistic position. The works for which she became known - quasi-photorealistic renderings, on a monumental scale, of porcelain and metallic figures - polarized audiences: Bessone investigated the history and politics of figurative representation - or indulged in recherchè kitsch; her expansive painterly vocabulary, drawing on historical portraiture, cartooning, Expressionism and Fauvism, was redolent of painting's rich traditions - or of its long-dead corpse. Bessone's aim could be taken as feminist or conceptual: do her depictions of female figures expose the persistent male gaze within art history, or does she deploy the tropes of painting to investigate rifts and overlaps between high and low visual culture? Such is the complexity of Bessone's oeuvre, and the doggedness of her commitment, that she might reasonably claim, "All of the above." Throughout nearly twenty years of painting, Bessone has maintained an un-ironic interest in the motifs and methods of figurative representation. Her practice is thoroughly post-modern, without showing the least disregard for modernism's high ideals. Bessone manages to honor and transcend.

Figuration has been the salient feature in Bessone's paintings since she began her career. The conceptual framework of her process, however, has continually expanded to encompass ever more immediate and generous levels of physicality and meaning. Hit Your Head! finds the artist attacking figuration on an entirely new front. Emerging in various states of disorder and decomposition, the grotesque figures populating her new paintings are fractured and fragmented. Human forms are layered and fused but never made whole, and yet the visceral and emotional sense of a moving, breathing body has never been more present than in these paintings. Bessone's amped-up palette and powerfully expressive gestures encourage us to interpret her broken figures as aggressively joyful rather than gruesome - though there is an element of darkness at work in the playful dismemberings of Hit Your Head! Bessone's unabashed corporeality calls to mind de Kooning's suggestion that "flesh was the reason oil paint was invented."

Amy Bessone has exhibited her work internationally, with solo exhibitions in Paris, Los Angeles and New York. The Rennie Collection in Vancouver recently presented her works alongside those of sculptor Thomas Houseago. Bessone's works have been included in group exhibitions in several institutions, including The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, and The Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

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Amy Bessone
Hit Your Head!