Italian-born and Los Angeles-based, Pessoli is best-known for his surreal landscapes often inhabited by fragmented human forms. Utilizing a plethora of media, from brushwork and stencils to terracotta, Pessoli imbues his canvases and sculptures with a wealth of imagery, all connected by an emotional intensity conjured through a process of layering and erasure.
The Woodstock’s Boy consists of new paintings and a monumental terracotta sculpture connected by the narrative of a hero – an archetype for the artist, who faces the threat of symbolic death in search of a more creatively pure and wholly instinctive reality. The title also references a countercultural generation—a generation defined by the Vietnam War and the Peace and Love movement, in which music, art and drugs were used as instruments for visualizing a better world. While only six-years-old at the time of the Woodstock festival, Pessoli sees himself in a world that desperately needs to grasp for freedom and utopia amidst a largely corrupt and violent reality.
Pessoli’s new body of work is ultimately celebratory. The Woodstock boy is a character who initially is tormented by the state of a real and metaphysical world yet ultimately finds a beautiful reality. Male and female figures exist in a hallucinogenic reality. Often playful, guns and other weapons transform into unashamed sexual metaphors alongside fruit, a symbol of life, nature, nourishment—something both essential and elementary. With a nod to a child-like vision, Pessoli’s universe is doused in opulent color and iconography of popsicles, rainbows and butterflies. Incorporating this childlike imagery allows Pessoli to reconnect with a pure and instinctual mode of artmaking. The obscure is juxtaposed with an enlightened and primal positivism.
The Woodstock’s Boy portrays a heroic journey from the threats of a complex and dangerous time to a more free and beautiful alternative reality. It’s a story of fall and regrowth. Perhaps beginning with Shack Up, a nude male figure that leans forward in a pensive form, arm swooped overhead, with fruit, a single rose and multi-colored popsicles at his back – an image evoking Adam’s expulsion from Eden – and ending with Bethel Girl in which the rebellious boy grows into a giant and finds acceptance and hope in an Eve-like female hero who has reconciled and lives fearlessly with her guardian monsters. Each work in The Woodstock’s Boy is its own chapter of an epic story and an opportunity for the viewer to fantasize about the story’s structure and details.
In 2009, Pessoli moved from Italy, a country steeped in history and tradition, to Los Angeles, a city of the new. Pessoli’s work is rich in art historical and biblical references, but also allusions to contemporary culture. With this in mind, Pessoli fuses the classical with a contemporary impulse, the familiar with the strange. With a newfound freedom, virtuosity with materials and respect for the past, Pessoli masterfully combines the etherealness of Henri Matisse and the Fauves with the rich moodiness of Francisco Goya. Furthermore, Pessoli’s work captures the pictorial heroism of 1960s Georg Baselitz and the Pop sensibility of R.B. Kitaj and Andy Warhol. __________________________________________________________________________________________
Knoebel’s wide-ranging and rigorous oeuvre incorporates drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, projections and installation. The exhibition comprises of a selection of rarely seen unique works on paper from the 1970s, which were made in preparation of his historic, breakthrough series, 24 Colors for Blinky, a body of work dedicated to his dear friend Blinky Palermo who had tragically passed away at the age of thirty-three.
The oil and graphite works on paper in this exhibition reference the color choice and polygon shapes that eventually formed the series of shaped canvases in variegated monochromes: 24 Colors for Blinky, the quintessential iconic post-modernist work by Knoebel that resides in the Dia: Beacon collection. Knoebel had once refused to work in anything other than black and white. The paper works’ compositions are built though swift, confident dashes of loose graphite borders containing a single built-up color in oil. Presented together, the framed window panes demonstrate the repetitious exercise of Knoebel’s intimate dedication to his friend. Knoebel made this change as special gesture to Palermo – keeping in mind Palermo had often enticed him during the course of their friendship by championing the use of color. Since this foray into this formative series, Knoebel has demonstrated a keen awareness of color in terms of its nuances, variation and rhythm – delineating a clear change in the artist’s work that has now defined his entire oeuvre.
Imi Knoebel’s early career can be understood through his interaction with his many friends, idols and mentors. Born as Klaus Wolf Knoebel in Dessau in 1940, he studied alongside his friend Rainer Giese in Darmstadt, with whom he adopted the common name ‘Imi’, an acronym meaning: Ich mit ihm (I’m with him), in reference to their idol, Kasimir Malevich. The two especially drew influence from Malevich – whose authority evidently informed Knoebel’s notion of “pure perception” through the exploration of form, color and material. In another defining moment, Giese and Knoebel were inspired to hitchhike to Düsseldorf to beseech Joseph Bueys to let them work at the academy. The amused Bueys assigned ‘Imi & Imi’ to the now famous Raum 19 studio space, giving them a year to create works to convince him of their merit. The two created the eponymous work, Raum 19, a complex installation that eventually was acquired by Dia: Beacon.
Other influential students in Düsselfdorf included Jörg Immendorff, Sigmar Polke, Albert Oehlen, Martin Kippenberg, Gerhard Richter and, of course, Blinky Palermo, all artists Knoebel interacted with at school and at the Rattinger Hof, a pub that brought the German punk music and avant-garde art scenes together. The pub became an important creative hotbed for informal critical discourse, punk performance and various improvised projects, and was run by a woman that would become Knoebel’s wife, Carmen. Those first years in Düsseldorf were formative for Knoebel, a time he looked back upon fondly before tragedy seeped in. Knoebel has stated that he has never recovered from Blinky Palermo’s untimely drug-related death, nor from Imi Giese’s suicide in 1974. Knoebel has kept the shared nickname in tribute to Giese and continues his explorations of color for Palermo.
Natalie Ball, a citizen of the Klamath tribes, is best-known for repurposing and re-contextualizing found materials and media that often confront the reductive narratives surrounding Native American identity. Working from her ancestral homelands in the rural community of Chiloquin, Oregon, Ball approaches her sculptural work to challenge the narrative surrounding the Native American experience and history.
In Mama Bear, II, Natalie Ball presents one free-standing sculpture, and five wall works from her Mama Bear series. In this series, Ball explores gesture and materiality to create sculptures as “Power Objects” a term used to describe shared cultural symbols or objects. Ball offers the objects as proposals of refusal to complicate an easily affirmed and consumed narrative and identity, without absolutes. She believes historical discourses of Native Americans have constructed a limited and inconsistent visual archive that currently misrepresents their past experiences and misinforms current expectations.
Ball’s use of materials is wide-ranging, often incorporating traditional, indigenous materials with found objects ranging from textiles, leather, beads, and wood to coyote teeth, hair, fur and bone. It is this juxtaposition, which sometimes bordering on the absurd that allows Ball to create a new auto-ethnographic narrative as she excavates hidden histories, and dominant narratives to deconstruct them through a theoretical framework of auto-ethnography to move “Indian” outside of governing discourses in order to build a visual genealogy that refuses to line-up with the many constructed existences of Native Americans. The familiar, hand-made dolls, quilts and clothing, becomes abstracted, dissembled and reinvigorated into wholly new, expressive objects.
Furthermore, Ball lends her work as new texts, with new histories, and new manifestations, to add to the discussion of complex racial narratives that are critical to further realizing the self, the nation, and necessarily, our shared experiences and histories. Through a symbolic art-making language, Ball reveals the tenuous and sometimes in flux nature of identities, specifically her identity as an Indigenous woman who is Black and Indian, as well as the narrative that often surrounds this identity.