'Honora Jacob: New Paintings'
The shifting history of women explored in colorful, sartorially elegant images
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Oct. 8, 2010
'Honora Jacob: New Paintings'
Wally Workman Gallery, 1202 W. Sixth, 472-7428
Through Oct. 30
"You've come a long way, baby" was the tagline for Virginia Slims cigarettes, a brand that was "slimmer than the fat cigarettes men smoke" and liked, upon its debut in 1968, to associate itself with the women's liberation movement. It was a successful campaign and used much imagery of women from the repressive beginning of the 20th century to the more liberated middle of it. Way to go, clever ad agency folks at Leo Burnett.
The artist whose latest solo show currently graces the walls of Wally Workman Gallery isn't promoting a damned thing here, except the artwork itself, and that artwork, in ways more subtle and sublime than the nicotined smoke and mirrors of Mad Ave., explores the recent and still shifting history of women with painted images both precise and (where visually effective) dripfully rough. Way to go, former advertising art director Honora Jacob.
Here are portraits not of women specifically, but of Woman as an archetype, their faces unpictured, the blank headspaces themselves often obscured by that popular icon of metamorphosis: butterflies. The winged insects flutter in bright explosion, like psychopomps mediating between the conscious and unconscious realms, as if implying that a person's dreams can become flesh – the way suffrage and other equal rights were envisioned and made manifest, the way a caterpillar eventually lives what might have been only a dream of flight, the way works like these move, step by step, sketch by pigment, from the artist's mind to the final material form.
Here are portraits of women via the accoutrements of women: dresses, whether worn by the faceless figuratives that Jacob has rendered in oil on canvas and Plexiglas or worn only by the dressmakers' dummies that also figure in these colorful, sartorially elegant paintings. Symbolic objects – pomegranates, nested eggs – are frequent additions to these portraits, whether as storied accents or as things that exist in the same plane as the figures depicted.
Here are portraits of a feminine milieu, as filtered through the personal perspective of Honora Jacob and displayed on the elegant walls of the Workman Gallery where beauty, like smoke famously used to, gets in your eyes.
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