Thursday, April 12, 2018

Katlyn Hubner’s #SEXUNTOLD

Disturbing and provocative art at 950 Gallery
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 12, 2018
 “Faith” painting by Katlyn Hubner, courtesy 950 Gallery
It was just this past December that I reviewed Katlyn Hubner’s paintings at Feast Art Center. In that review I made the audacious statement, “. . . might be the best figure paintings I have ever seen outside a major museum.” And now she’s showing in Tacoma again, this time at 950 Gallery, which used to be called Spaceworks Gallery. Her latest outing is called #SEXUNTOLD (hashtag and call-caps part of the title). It is an investigation into how men view sex interpreted from a woman’s point of view. It is definitely an adult-only art exhibition, with male and female nudity and depictions of sexual situations. This show is provocative and might be disturbing to some viewers — not because of the sexual content (it is not in any way pornographic), but because the images are harsh and uncompromising.
Hubner blends distortion and abstraction with realism. She puts her models in uncomfortable poses and views them from strange points of view, and paints extreme closeups and pictures of bodies at harsh angles. You might say they are all teeth and elbows, sweat and strain. The colors are electric, with deep blues and greens, fiery reds, purples, sickly skin tones, soft and delicate modeling adjacent to or blending into the kind of heavy bushstrokes associated with Abstract Expressionism.
The only painter I can think of who has ever done anything similar is Francis Bacon. That might give readers an inkling of what they’re in for. This show is not for the squeamish.
And it’s not just painting. Hubner interviewed men, asking questions about sexism, and their responses are presented as written text and film projection including film of one man reciting poems he wrote in answer to Hubner’s questions.
Among the more haunting images is “Trouble Shooting,” a closeup of a hand gripping a neck and “Self 101” a seated naked woman with splashes and drips of paint obscuring her face, breast and pubic area as a violet kind of censorship.
One of the most disturbing (and most Baconesque) is “Faith,” an extreme closeup of a screaming face with a monstrous open mouth, the head covered in clear plastic painted with expressionistic slashes of white paint.
There are also two unfinished paintings that demonstrate the artist’s method of working. In these, the background appears almost finished but the figure includes blue-green outlines of areas that will be light and shadow.
Hubner works from photographs she takes herself from models of her choosing. There are six such photographs in the show, all with the same range of electric colors we see in the paintings.
Between the paintings, the texts, the films and photos, there is a lot to see. I find the written work and the filmed responses to her questions mildly interesting. I find the paintings mesmerizing and marvelous.
#SEXUNTOLD, 1-5 p.m. Thursdays, 1-9 p.m. Third Thursday, and by appointment, through April 19, 950 Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave. (Entrance on 11th St.),

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