Ellen C Caldwells Reviews Rebecca Farr’s Out of Nothing in New American Paintings 11.26.16
Rebecca Farr’s “Out of Nothing” is Everything
Multimedia artist Rebecca Farr’s fourth solo show Out of Nothing welcomes viewers into a personal journey and emotional recovery as she uses monumental oil paintings and sculptural installations to explore the process and aftermath of losing her father.
This deeply intimate work is touching, moving, and beautifully real. During the weeks following a divisive election, many Americans are left lost, angry, and vulnerable, in need of soul searching and nurturing — and Farr’s exhibit offers a safe space for both. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor
Quite literally, Farr has worked in conjunction with gallery owner Deb Klowden Mann to lead a series of conversations in the wake of the elections. During both talks, viewers sit amidst Farr’s artwork, listening to one another, discussing the election’s impact on marginalized and targeted groups, and coming up with ways to deepen a commitment to action — all while considering the ways in which art and the Los Angeles art scene can function and work in solidarity within this new era.
Figuratively too, though, Out of Nothing offers viewers a deeply raw and emotional space to explore the complex feelings of loss which we have all experienced in our lives, in one form of another. Farr’s work is beautiful and honest, drawing upon themes that ran deeply between the relationship she shared with her father. She explores religious iconography and beliefs ranging from her “culturally inherited Christian ideology” to “the adopted practice of Buddhism” which both she and her father shared in common.
Her paintings and sculptures envelop the viewers in powerful and deep ways. Upon entering the gallery space, visitors are met with hanging, plastered cotton cloths cast in a way that suggests an unfurling of forms, not unlike a lizard shedding its skin, only much larger in form and more suggestive of mummies haven broken free of bodily bandages and earthbound vessels. The lines and movements of the cast cotton move between being subtle and substantive, and the aesthetic experience lies in the momentum and trapped action of these hanging forms.
As viewers walk into the larger, main room of the gallery, Farr has yet again transformed the space on many levels. The first, large, white wall on the left features five paintings, all measuring over five feet (61 x 49”). The opposite two walls are painted a dark black, immediately setting a more somber tone. Stained mahogany planks line the floor next to one wall, creating the illusion of a darkened, worn pier or waterside dock. With just enough subtle variations in length, the planks suggest and embrace the handmade, the worn, and the aged.
The planks are covered in white cast forms of plastered cotton. These sculptures sit together proudly as if scattered intentionally along the dock, or perhaps moving along the dock, starkly contrasting their white bodily forms against the black wall behind and planks beneath. Farr terms these “body poems,” suggesting a “vulnerability, strength, struggle, and eventual stillness” of the body in its transformative life cycle.
Each painting shows two figures swimming together in a dark and ominous body of water — reminiscent of both innocent times as perhaps a child and father would swim together and yet also painfully symbolic of two older forms of this same child and father, perhaps reuniting in an afterlife or visitation. Here, the paintings are particularly poignant, with two figures exploring the ethereal and unknown with someone who is, on the contrast, so deeply known, as a grown father and child would be to one another.
Farr paints these forms with large brushstrokes and thick layers of oil paint, in a palette that is restricted to charcoal black mixed with beautifully dulled opposite colors of dim blues and greys contrasted with browns and subtle peaches. Moments when a starker, brighter blue shine through the water suggest a sense of wonder. In Afloat, for instance, beautiful concentric blue circles radiate of the two forms, suggesting both spirituality and otherworldliness.
Farr’s work is raw, yet welcoming. In it and through it, she challenges viewers to embrace their own loss. Broken and wounded, bodily and open, explorative and healing, Farr’s work does and says everything needed to come “out of nothing” and emerge on the other side with a sense of spiritual renewal. Not many shows could hold up to this November, but the form, function, adaptability, and beauty underlying Farr’s show do that and more.
Out of Nothing runs through December 3rd at Klowden Mann, in Culver City, CA. Rebecca Farr had her last solo exhibition in 2014, which was accompanied by a special catalogue and artist book featuring an essay by Ed Schad. In 2015, Farr was awarded a residency at Kaus Australis in Rotterdam, and was featured in a group exhibition at Kaus in the Fall of 2015. Farr has exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Istanbul, Rotterdam, and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.