Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of works by Elana Bowsher, Vicente Matte, and Gabriel Mills
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Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of works by Elana Bowsher, Vicente Matte, and Gabriel Mills
Installation view. Photo: Bryan Toro.

NEW YORK, NY.- Alexander Berggruen is presenting Elana Bowsher, Vicente Matte, Gabriel Mills. This exhibition runs June 2–July 14, 2021 at 1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3, New York, NY, 10075.

Elana Bowsher, Vicente Matte, and Gabriel Mills are contemporary artists who explore painting from varied perspectives. While they are based in three different locations–Bowsher in Los Angeles, CA, Matte in Santiago, Chile, and Gabriel in New Haven, CT–they share an appreciation for how objects can weave together into allegory. Each artist in this exhibition commands a distinct lexicography, consisting of images of our known world: hands, door knobs, doorways, desks, birds, fire, shoes, and mirrors. Their dreamlike compositions resist direct interpretation and instead offer an accessible framework for viewers. And at times, their psychological explorations into domestic life seek to extract answers to pervasive cosmic questions.

Elana Bowsher paints graphic iconography inside glowing outlines and comic-book-esque scenes. Having described her painting style as “feminine”, Bowsher recurrently presents the female form in graceful gestures, wearing feminine-associated clothing, and holding earthly pleasures. In Collage C, a melting candle drips onto a cherry red stiletto in mid-step. An active leg reappears, stepping out of the canvas in her Collage A, Collage G, and Collage H. The same sharp-jawed, unblemished brunette woman is reflected in a gently-held hand mirror in two of the paintings. These renderings of feminine symbols exist in liminal spaces, often resting on undefined surfaces or within surreal geometric pictorial frames. Abstract color field backgrounds fluctuate between pure shapes and representations of clothing, hair, light, a table, or a wall. What may first appear purely as a hunter green diamond in the upper-right register of Collage H may then take on the form of the hem of a skirt. Bowsher activates feminine abundance in her contemporary pop paintings.

In speaking about his paintings in this show, Vicente Matte stated: “Having emerged from the intimacy of daily life, these works are imbued with a feeling of remoteness. They are persistent attempts to transform the complicity of the familiar into material for the construction of metaphors that deal with universal questions.” Matte’s chimerical works contain everyday objects and figures who often assume celestial qualities through the artist’s striated distemper brushstrokes. In Matte’s 2020 Bonfire, a bird appears to dive from the upper-left toward the reclining figure and bonfire at the composition’s center. A shadow outlines the bird, perhaps implying motion or casting an ontological shadow on the flat surface behind it, calling the viewer’s attention to the painting’s surface. The enigmatic figure seems to hail the creature. Matte welcomes the viewer into his phantasmagoric world in Blue Night. Three defined figures sit on the plane to the right of the archway and stare out at the viewer with stoic, knowing expressions. On the lower left, a grass green plank recedes from the forefront, tempting the viewer to step into the painting. At the plank’s end is an opening revealing the salmon silhouette of an oracular figure. Tension builds in the contrast between the brightly lit scene and the dark blue of the sky.

Gabriel Mills’s paintings of sneakers and his triptychs of romanticized prosaic scenes implicate his presence while leaving ambiguities to question the “complexities of existence,” in the artist’s own words. Gabriel stated: “My mark making and painting is affirmation of my being. It is a reflection on love, ephemerality, and one’s place within the non-linear continuous present, within the story of the world.” In Gabriel’s Love Can Last Forever series, he paints his Air-Jordans as a reflection on authenticity, nature’s lessons, and memory. The sneakers’ depicted specificity allows the imagery to extend beyond a personal narrative, recalling a discernible material condition. Corresponding with Gabriel’s height, the artist considers the size of the works to exist in an “intimate scale”, allowing ample, harmonious space for contemplation. Facing away from the viewer, the shoes rest in the shadows on a white duvet, imbued with a godly sense of purity, partitioned from full view. The format activates one to consider this in context with a myriad of painting traditions; ultimately it rejects fixivity, leaving the painting somewhat haunting as it remains elusive. In subtle gestures, the work evokes time passed, lived history, and spirituality. The artist’s triptychs also maintain a sense of perplexity, allowing the viewer to peer inside Gabriel’s world only through a mirror, a dark contour of a figure, or a detail of a carved relief. In these nebulous details, Gabriel finds his sublime.

Though the paintings in this show reflect each artist’s own everyday existence, the rendered artifacts may act as touchstones for transcendence. Elana Bowsher, Vicente Matte, and Gabriel Mills emphasize the spiritual in the ordinary, affirming the quotidian.

Elana Bowsher (b. 1990, San Francisco, CA) received a BA in Art at UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, Los Angeles, CA. Bowsher has been an artist-in-residence at The Macedonia Institute, Chatham, NY. She completed special projects at Cerámica Suro, Guadalajara, MX, in 2018 and 2019. Her work has been exhibited at Alexander Berggruen, NY; Half Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; The Pit Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Guerrero Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Club Pro, Toronto, ON; and Steve Turner, Los Angeles, CA. Bowsher lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Vicente Matte (b. 1987, Chile) holds a BA from Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago, Chile and studied at Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, Germany. Matte’s work has been exhibited at Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral GAM, Santiago, Chile; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Proyecto Museo Sin Muros, Concepción, Chile; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile; Feria de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile; Fort Gansevoort, New York, NY; Centro Cultural Matta, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Beers London Gallery, London, UK; Fundación Cultural de Providencia, Santiago, Chile; and Gallerie Christoffer Egelund, Copenhagen, Denmark. Matte lives and works in Santiago, Chile.

Gabriel Mills (b. 1992, New Rochelle, NY) received an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT in May 2021 and a BFA in Illustration and Art History from the University of Hartford, Hartford, CT. His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, New York, NY; El Barrio’s Artspace PS109, New York, NY; Museum Of Arts And Culture, New Rochelle, NY; LoSpazio, Turin, Italy; Green Hall Gallery, New Haven, CT; La Bodega Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; and ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA; among others. Gabriel will participate in a forthcoming artist residency at MASS MoCA in the summer of 2021. Gabriel lives and works in New Haven, CT.

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