Text and photos by Clare Gemima
Half Gallery, 235 E. Fourth St. at Avenue B
Friend Zone, curated by Vaughn Spann, consists mostly of contemplative figurative paintings. Some carry a sense of unease and vagueness through their figure’s expressions and body language (Elliot by Sarah Ball), others celebrate passion more directly (Lovers by Taylor Simmons) and some are just downright quirky (One liner — Lambullghini...produce/reuse
The age-old conventions of friend-zoning suggest that one person is in love and willing to engage with someone who does not reciprocate these feelings at all. Upon extrapolating the push and pull of this awkward and somewhat painful notion, the 44 artworks in the show appear to embrace reminiscent ideas like uncertainty, longing, and in some cases, torment.
Seeing works through this lens serves as an enjoyable experience immediately, allowing for creative narratives to form around visualized characters and situations.
My favorite work in the show was Brianna Rose Brook’s oil and airbrush on canvas called God bless this kitchen. Two figures play against a crazed kitchen scene where items have been chopped up and strewn across a table, a stovetop has been left on and maybe hair is being dyed at home? Is the dynamic between the two strained or suggestive? Sexy or struggling?
The uncertainty of the relationship is such a seductive tool in this work, something that is consistent throughout the young artists practice. For more of her incredible paintings, you can visit her website.
All American Girl, aka: Cowboy of Ohio was another work I could not stop thinking about from Friend Zone and I am grateful, as it has lead me to discover more of Oscar yi Hou’s works, which is honestly just to die for. If I could use swear words to exaggerate, trust me there would be a long list of them here.
Themes of diaspora and the slippage between Western and Eastern culture seen in this painting could be evocative of America’s friend-zoning of everything that is other or sadly not white, but for the artist’s intention, I cannot of course be certain.
Their exemplary use of contrasting and complementary colors creates a character that is sexy and charismatic, a palette that has been adopted throughout an extremely impressive body of work that you can find here.
Friend Zone is packed to the brim with works that force us to examine the importance of human bonds and relationships we have with each other. The consternation that shadows over relationships that can’t be defined or in some cases do not want to be has exacerbated over the course of our global crisis. Is the world in fact friend-zoning us? Instead of thinking about this too hard, go and see the show instead.
Friend Zone at Half Gallery will be up until Feb. 24.
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Clare Gemima is a visual artist from New Zealand. New-ish to the East Village, she spends her time as an artist assistant and gallery go-er, hungry to explore what's happening in her local art world. You can find her work here: claregemima.com