Perry Rubenstein Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Annie Kevans at 527 West 23rd Street. The exhibition will be comprised of some 30 new works, all painted within the past year.
The title of the exhibition is Manumission, a term with a complex history. Manumission refers specifically to a slave owner’s ability or discretion to free a slave. That power, in the hands of the men that wielded it, is the same power exercised by the philanderer in the choosing and the dismissal of his mistress.
The paintings in this exhibition are all portraits; most depict the illegitimate children of various Presidents of the United States, others their mistresses. Many of these figures, such as Sally Hemings and Grace Kelly, are well known. Others are considerably less so, and even less so are their children. Through this series of portraits, Kevans explores the representation of power, the lack thereof, and its manipulation in the hands of those who posses it. Having an affinity for the marginalized, Kevans paints figures overlooked, exploited, or objectified within the context of history or contemporary culture, imbuing her subjects with a tangible humanity and sensuality.
Kevans’ wide-eyed rendition of William Beverly Hemings conveys an innocence that arrests its viewer, yet exposes dark themes that belie its surface. William, the son of Sally Hemings, is believed to have been fathered by Thomas Jefferson. With William’s startled and seemingly innocuous gaze, Kevans alludes to the injustice and hypocrisy perpetrated by one of the most revered figures in American History.
Kevans looks to historical texts, illustrations, or photographs for source material, when possible. Yet as is often the case with figures that have been all but forgotten or perhaps deliberately omitted from history, she visualizes characters by borrowing features from life models. In effect, lending a face to the faceless and casting light on issues that are uncomfortable and thus ignored.
Implementing loose brushwork and layers of translucent oil paint, Kevans paints her subjects in a manner so elegant and subtle that she allows the character of both the medium and the subject to speak for themselves. Given their rich individual histories, the manifestations of these characters are as incredible as the feat of their rendering.
The exhibition of Annie Kevans’ paintings opens one day before the celebration of Presidents’ Day Weekend, February 11th, 2010.
British artist Annie Kevans was born in Cannes, France, and lives and works in London. Past solo exhibitions include Vamps and Innocents, Galleria Antonio Ferrara, Vienna (2007); Swans, 319 Portobello Road, London (2007); and Girls, Studio 1.1, London. Kevans’ work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, notably at the Galerie Karin Sachs, Munich (2008, 2007); Galleria Antonio Ferrara, Italy (2007, 2006); Contemporary Art Projects, London (2007) and will be included in the much-anticipated Power of Paper at Saatchi Gallery, London (Dates TBA). Kevans was a finalist for both the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2006) and Women Of The Future award (2007) in the United Kingdom.