By Amy Kaeser
Vanessa Prager's third solo show at Richard Heller Gallery is a series of impasto-abstracted self-portraits. The work in Ultraviolet delves deeper into the artist's psyche detailing the interrelationship between the art object and the unconscious drive of the artist. Whether Prager had a psychoanalytic theory in mind when creating this body of work is unknown, but the link between the heavily abstracted self-portraits and the unconscious mind of the artist seem to bear fruit. Prager operates in both small and large-scale for this show as well as the addition of untraditional materials in the use of neon lighting as a framing device on several panels.
At close examination, the individual pieces work on an intimate level; the thick paint captures the gesture of the brush Prager employeesĖswift, short strokes build up pigment as features of a face peering out from the canvases. The most compelling pieces in the show are those that obscure and only suggest feature of the face or body thus leaving the viewer to wonder if a portrait exists at all; Salt of the Earth (2017), an oil on panel with neon frame is a tightly focused image of what could be considered facial features. The eyes stare out as dark pools cast against a thick application of grey-green skin. The features neither confirms nor denies as belonging to the artist, the androgyny of the sitter in each work only adds to the abstract nature of Prager's series. Utilizing the artificial neon light as a frame, Prager emphasizes the built-up paint as deep valleys in shadow and the raised ridges in highlight. The dualities of light and dark work to further abstract to almost grotesque levels these self-portraits.
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