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Angela Wyman and Leslie Roberts: Eyewash

at Figureworks


Angela Wyman’s “Super Deformed” series, inspired by Japanese toys, includes watercolors and two larger paintings. She takes the theme of an obsessive female shopper at Victoria’s Secret as a starting point for a variety of exercises in distortion. Images in lemon yellows and cobalt blues paint her subject as manic and on the run, stretched from head to toe in undulating formations like a boomerang around the page. Dressed in pedal-pushers, a button-down top and sandals, with baubles and sunglasses, the image’s head or feet are often enlarged in relation to her body.


Angela Wyman,
Angela Wyman, "Super Deformed Liz: Stripes," 2002. Gouache on paper, 12" x 12". Courtesy of Figureworks Gallery, copyright 2002.

This premise can be promising as an anti-ideal, but Wyman loses track of something in her determination to stomp on her subject’s materialism. She stacks her deck with emotional distance, excluding any redeeming qualities in “Liz,” until finally Wyman’s arrogant attitude becomes conflated with her subject’s narcissism. Peppered with baubles, Liz lacks a satanic charm that could reveal the more intangible and aesthetic aspects of her abjection. The artist obsessively caricatures, rather than harnessing the commodification of Liz’s erotic self. While something of the never-satisfied impossibilities of engorgement and diminishment fill these works, they owe their subject a fuller insight.


Leslie Roberts reconfigures jigsaw puzzles by using images from master works and autobiographical snapshots to fracture them. In doing this, Roberts creates two layers of optical play. At a more subliminal level, the beveled edges of the puzzles create rounded bays and peninsulas around which one’s eyes rove, while the top layer constructs narratives of figures, animals, and household settings. Added together, these constructions contribute to a very modern theme: the elusive nature of love is laced with fragmentation.


Varieties of intimacy are touched on often in these assemblages. Longing in the shadows, ornamental voyeurism, and the split self—often the feminine self—are explored through Roberts’s organization of dislocated eyes, luminous hands and the jostling of stylistic disparities. Many works contain a mood of ennui which is inviting and involving, yet at times the connections are too quick and easy between glance and touch, even as we are reminded of our connection to art’s expressiveness and life’s flavor. The variety of exchange here is satisfying. Hopefully, Roberts can bring her postmodern ideas to a more surprising level, possibly one that draws deeper from her obvious well of possible sources.


Rachel Youens

Rachel Youens is a painter, writer, and teacher who lives in Brooklyn.


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