Review: Sascha Braunig at Foxy Productions
Exhibition review by MFA in Visual Studies candidate
“Let me introduce myself. I am a vibrating color illusion with multiple indentations for the rolling pleasure of your eyeballs. Shh! (There’s a daisy on my mouth and) I’ve got unrolled, snake and no-hair locks. I’m a looker, I’m a sucker and I touch electric.”
-FigureHeadSubject Press Release, Alexis Knowlton
Sascha Braunig’s oscillating oil paintings that were exhibited in April at Foxy Productions, seem to present the viewer with portals into an optical universe of her own making. In an unsettling marriage of Surrealism and Op Art (coined superficial realism), Braunig’s canvases reveal uncanny portraits that walk the line between artificiality and naturalism. This opening marks Braunig’s third solo show at Foxy Productions. Notably, several of her paintings are also included in the current New Museum triennial. The artist received her training at Cooper Union and Yale, and currently lives and works in Portland, ME.
In FigureHeadSubject, nine paintings hang throughout the gallery, all portrait-size or smaller, eight rectangular and one round. Working with a mostly muted complementary color palette, Brauning brilliantly manipulates pattern and value to create illusionistic renderings of forms and surfaces. Trippy rippling patterns of polka dots, chevrons, wavering lines and spheres flow together, wrapping and twisting into the semblance of human forms. In “Saccades,” a field of pearly spheres coalesces into a figure, composed in subtle blue-greys and warm oranges. The central character is at once humanoid and empty of humanity, an apprehensive balance of flatness and form.
Braunig’s humanoid figures often distend and echo across the picture plane, radiating fluidly in and out of their backgrounds, as in her painting “Feeder.” In “Hilt,” an androgynous character clings to and softens over a railing, covered in a pattern of shimmering gold spots. Figure, foreground and background slump and fold together as the subject swells into and is contained by the frame of the painting. Several subjects seem to consist of rolled up Play-Doh snakes. These intestine-like tubes fold around and over themselves, rendered real by an ingeniously subtle side-by-side application of hot and cool colors.
In a space to the side of the main gallery, a clay mask hangs alone in the center of the room, suspended at face-height from the ceiling by a clear string. This sculpture, the only three-dimensional work in the show, presents the viewer with an invitation to momentarily embody one of Brauning’s figures via the mask. The sculpture is composed of several rows of squiggly forms aesthetically parallel to those seen in the paintings.
Braunig’s figures seem to exist in an eternal now—lifeless, deathless, genderless, suspended in an unknowable and perhaps parallel universe. The surface of each painting is treated with the same lavish attention to detail, the artist’s dedication to her medium of choice evident in the careful hyper-realistic handling of the paint. The result is at once hypnotic and ornate, analog on the edge of digital, a vibrant wedding of psychedelic and psychological power that emanates from the painted figures in an intoxicating glow. FigureHeadSubject imparts upon its lucky viewers a glitched-out mind-bending dreamscape buzz.
Sascha Braunig, Hilt, 2015.
Sascha Braunig, Saccades (detail), 2014.