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Extra Spectral

Sascha Braunig & Bianca Beck
15 November 2019 11 January 2020
SPACE, Portland

Extra Spectral is a collaborative exhibition between Bianca Beck and Sascha Braunig, both artists whose individual practices investigate power, the body, and transformation. While sharing past sketchbooks and forgotten studies with one another, each artist chose which paintings and sculptures the other would make next — exchanging control over this formative phase in one another’s processes.

Bianca Beck (b. 1979, Columbus, OH) earned a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and an MFA from Yale University. The artist has participated in exhibitions at Opelvillen Rüsselsheim, Rüsselsheim, Germany; V1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark; the FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY; White Columns, New York, NY; Cheim & Read, New York, NY; and Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York, NY, among others. Beck is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Helen Winternitz Award for Excellence in Painting at Yale University, New Haven, CT; The Ox-Bow School of Art Fellowship Program, Saugatuck, MI; and Artist-in-Residence at Complimenta, Ithaca, NY.

Sascha Braunig (Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada, 1983) has lived in Portland, ME since 2010. Her work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Atlanta Contemporary (Bad Latch, 2017); MOMA PS1 (Shivers, 2016); and Kunsthall Stavanger, Norway (Torsion, 2015), as well as in numerous solo and group gallery shows. She was awarded a studio residency from the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in 2016 – 2017, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation award in 2016, and a Macdowell Colony Fellowship in 2013. She holds a BFA from The Cooper Union and an MFA in painting from Yale University.

Organized by Elizabeth Spavento
Exhibition statement by Lia Wilson
Exhibition photography by Luc Demers
Karen Azoulay performance photography by Jocelyn Leighton
Title design by Kate Howe>

by Lia Wilson

Extra Spectral is a collaborative exhibition between Bianca Beck and Sascha Braunig featuring new works generated from a radical sharing of creative control. Despite primarily working in different mediums, the artists began with common ground across concept, form, and process. Both Beck and Braunig investigate the body, power, and transformation; both deploy rich, fluorescent color; and both depend upon a practice of sketches and studies to pick a new direction. From this shared territory, each artist entrusted the other to choose the sculptures or paintings they would make next. This was power-transference by design, pushing the work beyond the limits of one individual’s choices and requiring another’s influence. The title Extra Spectral makes apt use of the color magenta as metaphor: a hue only visible when two wavelengths, red and violet, intersect.

Meticulously and realistically rendered as neon wireforms, spiky armatures, or flat cut-outs, the figures in Braunig’s paintings have a vivid presence even in their absence of flesh. Their stylization and settings recall imagery from surrealist landscapes, virtual space, and science fiction of the 1980s. Within their amorphous environments, the figures contort themselves in relation to lustrous, satiny fabric, grappling with the fit of a gown or folding to uphold the weight of a stage curtain. The burden of that stage and the impossible fit of those garments is potent allegory for the societal expectations wrought on bodies read as female. Within these new works, spiked, skeletal figures with rooted feet assert an otherworldly, but decidedly human, struggle for autonomy. Braunig interrogates the fraught lineage of female representation in painting, even as her painterly skills are informed by that same history.

Within each of Beck’s figurative sculptures are multiple poses, calling up a body in motion or two dancers intertwined. Stability and fluidity coexist in these forms; their thick, rooted stances establishing a base for the exuberant geometry and akimbo limbs outstretched above. Created with papier-mâché molded over wood and wire mesh, gestural strokes of saturated color are wildly and impulsively applied, accentuating a sense of costume and self-presentation. In congregation, Beck’s sculptures reverberate a networked energy: a cluster of bodies posing, framing, and emanating vitality. Their fluorescent palette radiates beyond their contours, a visual parable for the impact a self-actualized individual can have on their environment. Beck cites Grace Jones and Grace Lee Boggs as influences, and it is no struggle to see the work born from intersections of futurism, gender fluidity, and communal organization.

Extra Spectral also features one collaborative sculpture. In a striking marriage of the artists’ two styles, a blue wireform figure wraps itself around the torso and limbs of a seated, colorful form. This alliance liberates Braunig’s figure from the picture plane and its historical trappings, and makes explicit the inherent plurality and drive towards connection within Beck’s sculptures. The kindredness of the artists’ practices vibrates here, as these bodies reach one another across space and time, in an embrace.

Jenna Crowder, The Affidamento of Bianca Beck and Sascha Braunig, The Chart, Reviews, Vol. 5, No. 1: Winter 2019/2020