Somatic Markings features seven international artists that employ the nude figure to grapple with issues of contemporary corporeal politics. Incorporating feminist, queer, and postcolonial methodologies that are constitutive of the artists’ personal histories, these works disassemble notions of the traditional nude, transforming the figure into a medium for nuanced discussions that develop on and beyond issues of identity or the reclamation of the gaze. Rendered in vivid hues that blur the line between figuration and abstraction, the exhibited works respond formally with a rejection of the binaries that underscore the logical fallacies of many forms of oppression. On view at 297 Tenth Avenue from November 3 through December 23, the exhibition includes work by Shadi Al-Atallah, Mira Dancy, Miranda Forrester, Elizabeth Glaessner, Anya Kielar, Katherina Olschbaur, and Mark Yang.
The exhibition draws on the text The Brain’s Body: Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics by Victoria Pitts-Taylor. The author’s theory of complex embodiment sees “the body and its representations as mutually transformative. Social representations obviously affect the experience of the body […] but the body possesses the ability to determine its social representations as well.” The exhibition explores such evolving paradigms regarding our relationship to our undeniable physicality, developing on feminist and queer theories that have focused on the uses of the nude in social terms. The paintings included in Somatic Markings rework various art historical conventions—including classical examples of idealized physicality, fauvist color palettes, prehistoric fetishistic talismans, and cubist disassembly—with each artist’s personal mythology to present a neoteric vision of the future.
Together, the works typify each artist’s role as a mirror or medium through which a complex and influential triangulation of mind, body, and society can be expressed. The painters included in the exhibition enact profound explorations of the brain-body connection that call on their personal experiences in multiple ways, touching on experiences of illness, gender, and sexuality. More broadly, unpacking the manner in which physical presentation affects our experience in society, the works combine analysis of the body politic with that of the role of the individual body in an increasingly nationalistic political landscape.
Through painting, the body enacts a cathartic mechanism for psychological healing that occurs outside of binaries. Emphasizing themes of embodiment, performativity, transformation, agency, and freedom, Somatic Markings acts as a forum for contemporary discourse and proposes that the inherently relational experience of our bodies can become analogous to the act of making itself—painting as an embodied performance.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Shadi Al-Atallah (b. 1994, Saudi Arabia) is a multi-disciplinary artist based in London and Bahrain. Their experiences with mental health, queerness, racial identity, family history, and the spiritual traditions of the African diaspora in Saudi Arabia inform their large-scale, distorted self-portraits. Rendered with rapid gestural marks, each painting recalls a specific memory or moment in time. Drawing on Aristotle’s theory of catharsis, Al-Atallah’s genderless figures are caught in moments of intense purification and pleasure, embodying an ambiguity that language rarely allows.
Al-Atallah received an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art, London. Recent solo exhibitions include Waters That Never Quench, Steve Turner, Los Angeles (2022); I Lost The Title On The Plane, Guts Gallery, London (2021); Fuck, I’m Stuck, J. Hammond Projects, London (2019); and Roadblocks, Cob Gallery, London (2018). Public commissions include LDN WMN, curated by Tate Collective and the Mayor of London, Tate Modern, London (2018). In 2018, Al-Atallah was invited to speak on a panel of artists as part of “Insights: Beyond Gender,” a talk organized by Tate Modern which explored gender and representation for artists today. Al-Atallah’s work is included in The Dean Collection, United States; the Underdog Collection, Italy; and the A4 Arts Foundation, South Africa. Al-Atallah lives and works in London.