The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, April 16, 2010, Arts

'Susannah Blanton: How to Disappear Completely'

Bay6 Gallery,

5305 Bolm, 553-3849,

Through April 25

Susannah Blanton is subverting not only one of the dominant American paradigms, but a vintage paradigm – midcentury advertising – like some politburo apparatchik, also midcentury, rewriting history in a 1984 refs-unpersons style at a battleship-gray desk deep within the Kremlin. Except that Blanton is thoroughly visual in her work, bright oils on canvas, with painted text providing rare interlocution, and her purpose in transmogrifying classic print ads is ... well, the artist herself explains:

"I have found that vintage advertisements taken out of their literal context are an excellent suit in which to dress a more complicated idea. What I want viewers to explore is the possibility that under the obvious is something less perfect that demands to be heard."

You can explore those possibilities at Bay6 Gallery, part of the Bolm studio complex, where Blanton's "How to Disappear Completely" is now on display. The exhibition adorns the walls with iconic images stripped of their reassuring blandness, reminiscent of how David Lynch removes the veneer of small-town quaintness to reveal the emotional violence and existential vacuum beneath. In the artist's Embrace, especially, the veneer is almost literally removed, parts of the image (a 1950s-era pimping of Big Pharma company Pfizer) rendered as if to reveal the plywood underpinnings of such graphic primitives, to imply the woodenness of the (possibly chemically altered) commercial avatar's pose in an unnerving second life lurking below the primary one.

The show's title is also the title of a song by Radiohead, which only goes to further recommend the work included, and disappearance is in much evidence here. Who's doing most of the disappearing is women, of course, which is still true in these slightly more enlightened times and certainly was obvious (at least in hindsight) when the ads that inspired these paintings were first published. See the artist's Flee, her Diluted, her Obsolete, and understand the cultural subjugation under consideration here. In Blanton's current show, the female figures are blurred and obliterated, whether in their roles as accessories to male success or as de facto domestic servants: Same as it ever was, but more so here – here made manifest in arch images that call bullshit on the bullshit, that show us, in a disruptive and damning light, all the women that men didn't see.

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