CHLOE WISE Thank You For The Nice Fires
THANK YOU FOR THE NICE FIRES
In another delectable body of work, using society as her muse, Almine Rech is pleased to present Chloe Wise’s third solo show. Thank You For The Nice Fires frames its lens onto the personal life and relations of the Montreal born and New York based artist, but speaks to a much larger moment of collective turmoil.
Wise’s painting derives from the evolving conversation surrounding the human condition following the pandemic. Where human touch and physical connections have been jolted under universal scrutiny it has also become a hyper-fixation. Despite no traces of covid, a mask, a physical distance, Wise subtly probes at this shifting gaze which, through the closure of the outside world, has consequently landed unto ourselves. Thank You for The Nice Fires ultimately sheds on the “glorified nothingness” (Wise) of today that we have comfortably and perhaps unknowingly have shifted into.
In a world where the fleeting yet intimate gestures of skin-on-skin contact is no longer tolerable, we are faced with our own self-inflicted discomforting reality. The way we hold another’s hands or smile at each other has changed. How we understand the body and touch has becomes warped. We were used to taking the physical presence of each other for granted. The small utterances between expressions on our face were always readable. We knew how to understand each other even before we had spoken. Now however, we are covered, isolated, quarantined almost fearful of others. There is an intangible boundary growing between us. The small brush of a hand, the slight grip of another, the faint touch of someone’s hair or clothes, doesn’t feel the same. Her painterly expressions and delicate strokes of light gliding across the skin forefronts this sensibility and fragility. The flickers of light from the outside barely peaking in, we feel this false sense of intimacy. The figures are close, lightly caressing one another, yet their expression is telling. Nothing seems genuine, her scenes are overtly staged but with the purposeful intent in order to champion on through this unprecedented time.
“The main thought I had, in creating this body of work, was the cognitive dissonance that is required for survival during times of crisis”.Chloe Wise
We certainly feel this keep calm and carry-on approach.
With masks, distancing and isolation, the fragments of the face, zoomed in, cut off or omitted completely. Wise explores our expressions, needs and habitual desire for creating relationships built on physical gestures. Whether through facial or physical prompts, the awkwardness that has loomed into view following this prolonged moment of isolation becomes unavoidable. There is no exaltation in these individual portraits, despite all the right ingredients, these works accumulate as awkward disquieting encounters, both with the figures and ourselves.
The limitations of the outdoor world blended with the all-American decor of banal excess of food waste we get this sort of vacuous hall akin to the domestic interior. The fake window, light instalments, serves as an alternative reality. As such the accumulative elements of this installation should in effect be a recipe for a grandeur interior. The chandeliers, statuesque busts of things and large-scale portraits. Yet it is unfathomably discomforting. The figures on view are living in their world, and us in ours, we are intruders infringing on their isolated realities. That sense of connectedness fades away, they are alone. Despite the bare on skin, there is nothing particularly sexual to be found here, their cool expressions quickly diminish any suggestion of warming intimacy. Though the intruding hand in Promises Are Like Pie Crusts, perhaps suggests infidelity, we know it is none of our business.
Befitting to what New York Magazine article described as the “carb artist” in 2017, Wise continues to hit on the ever-present theme of American over consumption. The thick globs of butter dripping from rococo-esque romaine lettuce that fans out and somewhat echoes the formation of the fleur-de-lys. This in tension with the sickening still life with an almighty stick of butter holding centre stage in Historical Little Illuminations serving as a satirical presentation of how the US may attempt to enter the European canon with its own version of iconography. Again, further punctuated In An American in America, the greasy stack of butter eclipses the stood figure, in the same way consumption and industry has our humanity. Wise is thus both historical and ahistorical, this set of works hits precisely on the sweet spot of our time without a literal expression of doing so. The traditional portraiture and busts of butter follow in tow of past practice whilst perfectly channelling the present looming anxieties and shared experiences of today’s unfathomable world.
What more is that we see not just ourselves but herself enveloped in the themes of her work. Is there a class critique- reclaiming lower class identity through such unprecedented times? Her painting titles sign post her ideas; “im so and so and I exist!” One could certainly ask questions on how her personal biography comes to play as there is more to be explored here regarding the interplay of Wise’s personal position within the American class spectrum, and hence is there a position of privilege to be considered. However, with this particular set of works, the wrought feeling of escapism does seem the most prevalent.
The fickle and satirical remnants of American life come as a slight nod to Pop Art and hence recalls the themes of capitalistic consumption. Centre-piecing food, waste, excess, gluttony but also unequivocal nothingness, she sheds light on the post Trump era of blissful ignorance to reality. Forceful smiles and the warm tones of the interior settings, we have adapted to this situational fake reality until we muster up the courage to fathom the world again. The produce will slowly rot, the butter will melt, time will tick on and yet we will continue to remain inaccessible to the real world.