I’m Your Venus at Bee in the Lion Gallery

Contributor: Douglas Turner

 

Closing April 5th, I’m Your Venus at Bee in the Lion gallery celebrates the mythical figure of Venus in her myriad of forms. 

Michael Wolf, “I’m Your Venus”, 2019, copper, stone and 18k gold plated brass) Image courtesy the artist

The artistic fascination with the female figure is the primary focus of this most recent show at Bee in the Lion.  Venus is depicted one hundred ways, one hundred times – this may be an exaggeration, but her likeness is represented so frequently that we can begin to contemplate the qualities of Venus in works seemingly unrelated to her whatsover. I’m Your Venus asks what is “Venus”: in symbol, in form, and in identity. The show exhibits works by Arslan, Janie Korn, Lucy MacGillis, Pedro Calapez, Andy Warhol, Wendy Ploger, Dana Nechmad, and Michael Wolf as well as African artifacts and the 19th century bijin-ga (beautiful women woodblock prints) of Tokugawa-era Japan.

In her many representations, Venus has always transcended a singular specific figure. She is the icon for the rebirth of civilization and represents a shift in culture. In her many physical forms, we discern unfettered observations through various artists’ eyes:  an 11 cm female figurine, pregnant with full breasts from far-off Greece, was discovered in 1908 and was immediately named “Venus of Willendorf{. Although she has nothing to do with Venus, this story details the transcendence of Venus: a title denoting reverence for female resplendence. Michael Wolf figuratively radicalizes the “Venus of Willendorf” for a post-pop generation. Bright interpretations of the figurine push the bounds of the icon into revered idolism.

Janie Korn, “Revenge Bodies”, 2017, Acrylic, Resin and Clay. Image courtesy the artist

Portuguese painter Pedro Calapez’s abstracts use a sensuality created by his broad brushstrokes, plying seductive curves that swell with fullness. Known for his illuminations of the female form, Arslan achieves beauty in his painting “Venus Rising”, singing the praises of the feminine as divine in all her glorious dynamism. In “Glimpse”, we are offered a divergent intimate observation of the female figure that is sensual and sensitive, effusing her vulnerability and perhaps instinctual generosity of spirit transcending materiality for something more along the lines of virtue. Lucy MacGillis’s self-portrait renders female form with lack of adornment and a hewn composition that seems to convey the passing of time. And an early illustrative work by Andy Warhol, which the gallery chose as a light-hearted addition to the show, exudes both elegance and grace. Contrasting these contemporary works, African artifacts sit on plinths among the gallery. The “Seated Woman”, with its angular carvings,  indicates a direct influence on Western art history.

African Art, Seated Woman Figure. Image Courtesy the Bee in the Lion.

I’m Your Venus is an exhibit both playful and sensuous, recounting the storied conflict of femininity deftly pitting women against the expectations and sensibilities laid out for them. Janie Korn’s “Revenge Bodies” are curvaceous figurines of pop culture icons, like Star Jones whose body transformed before our eyes after her gastric bypass surgery. Body, and image, in these times, is up for re-imagination as the body transforms in view of the public eye. Korn’s work is in contrast with the 19th Century arts of ukiyo-e that espouse the privacy with ordinary intimacy. Dana Nechmad draws inspiration from Louise Bourgeois’ gleaming ‘The Arch of Hysteria’ for their work, with paired forms of female figures symbolically elucidating the vigors and torment internal to the female existence. On a more lighthearted note, an early Andy Warhol illustrative piece of the head of a woman paired with the heads of a swan and a horse, each wearing a pearl necklace, contemplating the virtues of being a woman. 

In a contemporary and classic exploratory contrast, “I’m Your Venus” honors the romanticism of Venus while also discussing a contemporary understanding of women in a social, political and religious context through symbol, form and identity. The show closes Friday, April 5th. The Bee in the Lion gallery, located in Gramercy, is open by appointment.

Arslan, “Venus Rising”, 2019, Oil on Canvas. Image courtesy the artist

The Bee in the Lion

310 East 23rd Street, 2H

New York, NY 10010

T: +1 212 542 0525

info@beeinthelion.com

 

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