Caught and Free
Caught and Free, Nikki Maloof’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. In her new paintings, Maloof continues to develop environments inhabited by animals while transforming their natural surroundings into fully domesticated settings: a cat lying on an armchair, canaries looking through the bars of their prettily ornamented cages and fish lying on a kitchen table, about to be cooked and eaten for dinner.
Cartoon-like, Maloof’s goofy looking animals seem to be unaware of their situations, appearing humorous while equally evoking sympathy. A psychological tension is palpable throughout her works. While gay color palettes and playful domestic patterns on fabrics, carpets, curtains and kitchen tiles allude to happy homes, the headlines of discarded newspapers indicate otherwise: “Night Anxiety at All Time High”, “Cry whenever you want to”, “How did we get here and where are we going from now on?”. At first inviting in their joviality, the domestic patterns seem to embellish internal captivities of stagnation, quotidien routine and ennui.
The pervading analogy of animals and humans is also manifested in a play of perspectives. In ‘Canaries’ the viewer is caught in the cage together with three little birds, looking out into the world through bars where pigeons take a stroll on a window sill, flying freely. In Maloof’s adoption of a traditional painting language, vanitas symbols like dying owers, peeled lemons and fresh cut fish bring to mind existential themes of ephemerality and the limitations of life. Maloof transfers this heavily loaded symbolism into our times, unloading its seriousness through the use of a unique comical narrative and painting style. Funny and serious, inward and outward, caught and free, Nikki Maloof’s elaborate compositions resemble human existence and the complexities of life itself.