For the 2021 edition of Frieze Masters, Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of works by Gladys Nilsson and Mark Greenwold. Both artists have spent long careers crafting densely layered and intricately detailed paintings that humorously explore sexual, psychological, and physical tension.
The presentation will include a selection of 13 of Nilsson’s iconic works from 1967 to 2010. The artist first rose to prominence in 1966, along with James Falconer, Art Green, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum, for the first of a series of group exhibitions called the Hairy Who. She was the first member of the group—and one of the first women in history—to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1973.
Though an early example, Nilsson’s Vertickle (1970) contains many of the hallmarks of her iconic works. In the scene, women with conical breasts jeer at helpless robots that seem to be undermined by their own awkward limbs which flex like cooked noodles. The pathos with which she imbued the robots became a central feature of the pitiable female characters that are a staple of her works to this day. In paintings like Being Beamed (1984), Nilsson’s women maintain a prelapsarian unawareness of their conspicuous nudity. Whatever would-be-psychic discomfort is transposed into a pure physical drama as the women unsuccessfully negotiate with their bodies’ unruly lumps, bulges, and limbs.
Greenwold’s similarly long career picked up steam in the early 1970s when his paintings—depicting strange, pornographic scenes within lurid, overdesigned 1970s interiors—became the targets of admiration as well as ire (including Lucy Lippard’s superlative “item that made me maddest last season”). Greenwold’s works, like Spanish Mediterranean Bedroom (1971), were products of monkish devotion, jam-packed with psychological complexity, often taking years to paint. “I thought of myself more like a novelist, someone who works incrementally for years and years, chapter by chapter, piecing it together.” Far from obscene celebrations of male virility, as Lippard had characterized them, the works are sexually uneasy—reflections of the artist’s self-described Midwestern baggage.
In even earlier examples, like The Car & The Bed (1964), Greenwold paints with an unsettling, jarring intensity—one that returns in his recent paintings. Saturated, warring colors add to the scene’s psychological unease. A car door is sprung wide, revealing a couple celebrating with a round of copulation. Their morbid achievement is that of vehicular homicide (a dagger is also thrust through the victim for good measure). The couple is surrounded by psychedelic and faintly Hobbesian references to nature’s brutality. A giant locust perches atop their vehicle while a crocodile lurks in wait for the fresh meat. Perhaps most unsettling is the strange, visceral grip of Greenwold’s works. Do we viewers have a latent capacity for psychosis?
Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to represent Mark Greenwold and Gladys Nilsson.