Artist: Gina Beavers
Venue: Various Small Fires, Seoul
Exhibition Title: Passionaries
Date: January 16 – March 20, 2021
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Various Small Fires, Seoul
Various Small Fires is pleased to present Passionaries, American artist Gina Beavers’ first solo exhibition in Asia and her first exhibition with VSF. In Seoul, the artist will present eight new paintings that look at contemporary Internet culture and social phenomena to consider themes that include consumerism, celebrity fandom, global media circulation, image consumption and manipulation, as well as the creation and distortion of the self.
Beavers’ practice is rooted in the archiving of digital imagery with many hours spent scouring online resources such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Google. In recent years, Beavers has most commonly used makeup tutorial videos, snapshots of celebrities, and photos of so-called “#foodporn,” a common Internet hashtag, as source material that is both internationally wide ranging yet culturally repetitious. Passionaries seeks to find and emphasize common ground between American and Korean audiences: her paintings Gilgeori Toast and Korean Fried Chicken, for example, all document Instagram photos of Korean-American street food that are extremely well-circulated beyond their geographic boundaries. To create her highly tactile, almost photo-realist works, Beavers applies layer after layer of acrylic paint, which she subsequently carves.
#foodporn images are styled to present food at its seductive, gluttonous best. These performative photos originated in Asia, and Passionaries returns this genre of photo-making to its source. Yet Beavers’ sculptural paintings also undermine the flatness of the Instagrammed images her work otherwise carefully replicates, playing with questions of the representation of “reality” on social media. A burger rendered carefully in acrylic by Beavers comes no closer to the original plated piece of food than a photo on Instagram. Here the artist engages with age-old questions related to the ability of an image, painted or otherwise, to serve as a “document” of a given object or scene — a question that only continues to play out on social media and the Internet more broadly in the present day.
The term “food porn” inherently gestures to the fusion of food and body, an idea literally embodied by works like Liz Phair ‘Parasite’ Butt Cake. Beavers’ oeuvre often features paintings of the human figure, as portrayed in other works in Passionaries that include hands and lips based on stills from online makeup tutorials. These works all feature Beavers’ painting of singer Liz Phair’s own painted fan art (which Beavers discovered on the musician’s Twitter feed) of a scene from the 2019 Korean movie Parasite — another potent pop cultural touchstone between Korean and American audiences, considering the film’s breakthrough as the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. In this context, Beavers’ “fan art of Liz Phair’s fan art,” in the artist’s words, becomes less a meditation on the particularities of Parasite itself and more about the globalized circulation, consumption, and distortion of media and celebrity fandom both on and offline.
In this particular scene from Parasite, the wealthy Yeon-Kyo takes a prospective tutor, Ki-Woo, on a tour of her enviable home, all the while projecting a meticulously-crafted veneer of contentment — the embodiment of “the good life,” as we’re led to believe. According to Beavers, this scene from Parasite becomes “almost a perfect real life metaphor for the experience of a Capitalist life lived online.” As we scroll through our Instagram feeds, we’re constantly fed carefully-curated images of what happiness should look like: the body we should have, the food we should eat, the lives we should desire. By way of images depicting carefully-manicured nails, temptingly-rendered burgers, and mesmerizing eye makeup, Passionaries puts these questions at center stage.
Gina Beavers (b. 1974 in Athens, Greece, lives and works in New York) received a BA in Anthropology at the University of Virginia, a MFA in Painting and Drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and an MS in Education from Brooklyn College. Her work has been shown in solo exhibitions including MoMA PS1, New York; Marianne Boesky, New York; GNYP Gallery, Berlin; Michael Benevento, Los Angeles; Carl Kostyal, London; Clifton Benevento, New York; and Fourteen30 Contemporary, Portland. Recent group exhibitions include Schlossmuseum Linz, Linz; Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem; Gió Marconi, Milan; Foxy Productions, New York; CAPITAL, San Francisco; Loyal Gallery, Stockholm; Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York; Nassau County Museum of Art, Long Island; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York; Cheim and Read, New York; and Greater New York, MoMA PS1, New York.