In the heart of Beverly Hills, Gagosian Gallery is gearing up to showcase a mesmerizing collection by Ewa Juszkiewicz titled “In a Shady Valley, Near a Running Water.”
Scheduled to be on view from November 3 through December 22, 2023, this marks Juszkiewicz’s inaugural solo exhibition in California, following her notable show in New York, “In vain her feet in sparkling laces glow” (2020-21).
Disrupting Historical Portraiture
Juszkiewicz’s unique approach takes cues from historical portraits, especially those featuring women. While she borrows from their established styles, she audaciously twists their norms with fascinating and sometimes unsettling modifications. By closely emulating the Grand Manner style — a prevalent trend in Western art from the 18th to the early 19th century — she manages to recreate the poise, attire, and ambiance. However, Juszkiewicz subverts them by tweaking their scales, palettes, and introducing elements that question conventional markers of femininity.
A Surreal Lens on Femininity
In her latest collection, each painting hides the subject’s face, replacing them with meticulously crafted elements like elaborate hairdos, swathes of fabric, or even an intricate arrangement of flowers and leaves. These uncanny substitutions not only challenge the viewer’s preconceived notions but delve into deeper issues of how women’s identities have been historically overlooked or romanticized. In the artist’s words, her work teeters “between ideal and distorted, elegant and wild, beautiful and grotesque, human and inhuman.”
The exhibit’s title pays tribute to an 18th-century verse by the English poet, William Shenstone. One can observe this influence prominently in Juszkiewicz’s painting, “In a Shady Valley, Near a Running Water (after François Gérard),” where she has ingeniously reimagined Gérard’s 1803-04 portrait of Countess Katarzyna Starzeńska. The subject’s head is enigmatically wrapped in colorful fabric from which leaves emerge.
Juszkiewicz’s meticulous attention to detail and her ability to weave thought-provoking narratives make her paintings stand out. Each work is a commentary on age-old traditions, societal norms, and the often rigid, stereotypical depictions of women. They pose significant questions: How have women been objectified over the ages? How do notions of beauty and societal standards oppress or liberate them?
A Tribute to Feminist Pioneers
Juszkiewicz’s works resonate with the powerful feminist sentiments from the era of artists like Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and Marie-Denise Villers, who sought recognition during tumultuous times marked by political and cultural revolutions. By referencing these pioneering women and blending their legacy with contemporary insights, Juszkiewicz underscores their foundational importance to modern-day culture.
Born in Gdańsk, Poland, in 1984, Ewa Juszkiewicz has established herself as a pivotal figure in the contemporary art scene. Her works have been showcased worldwide, from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami to the Museo Picasso in Málaga, Spain.
EWA JUSZKIEWICZ In a Shady Valley, Near a Running Water
Opening reception: Friday, November 3, 6–8pm
Duration: November 3–December 22, 2023
Venue: 456 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills