The skeleton was as happy as a madman whose straitjacket had been taken off. He felt liberated at being able to walk without flesh. The mosquitoes didn’t bite him anymore. He didn’t have to have his hair cut. He was neither hungry nor thirsty, hot nor cold. He was far from the lizard of love.
–Leonora Carrington, The Seventh Horse and Other Tales
As we reopen, Petzel Gallery is pleased to present A Love Letter to a Nightmare, a summer group exhibition that will be on view from July 15 – August 14 at the gallery’s Chelsea location. A Love Letter to a Nightmare includes work by Danica Barboza, Genesis Belanger, Meriem Bennani, Sascha Braunig, Florencia Escudero, Hadi Fallahpisheh, Anna Glantz, Ivy Haldeman, Christina Quarles, Emily Mae Smith, and Greg Parma Smith.
The exhibition’s premise is to take into consideration contemporary visual modes and expressions that trace back to historical movements such as Surrealism, Symbolism and Pop, through the lens of our current uncertain existence. Call it vamped Surrealism and Symbolism. The show ponders how the aesthetic of modern surrealism/symbolism has been dressed up and added upon, sexualized, feminized, and reworked in the 21st Century. How does the state of a bound subconscious affect these artworks? This has become especially prevalent while the world shelters from the coronavirus pandemic and confronts centuries of inequity in a moment of historic unrest and great potential for revolutionary change. Beneath our daily struggle for normalcy bubbles a shared unconscious anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair, and trepidation of the future.
In these times, the fabric of society is now both flattened into two dimensions as we socialize through screens – from our Zoom meetings, family check-ins, and “cocktails with friends,” to the daily State and Federal news conferences, Instagram stories, and Tik Tok videos – and yet simultaneously burst open in valiant action both intellectual and physical as we gather, protest, and organize in efforts to reimagine and rebuild a more just world. Our dreams have become more “vivid” and “menacing,” according to The New York Times, and, of course, in fantasy there is room for radical possibility. How might these practices of contemporary Surrealism, Symbolism and Pop, be read and implemented in reaction to the current upheaval? As one of the artists offered – how might these daydreams and nightmares be used as “forms of resistance, or in addressing trauma, enfranchising the masses, and envisioning necessary escape?” The exhibition asks how does each artist’s subjective work – painting, sculpture, installation, and video – explain a world riddled with multiple “objective” truths?