Zoe Nelson

Cleve Carney Art Gallery
425 Fawell Blvd., McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage
October 18, 2015–November 21, 2015

Zoe Nelson, Flamingo Anus, 2015, oil and spray paint on canvas, 60 x 56".

Although this is Zoe Nelson’s first exhibition in which every work is painted front and back, its title, “Recto/Verso” is actually a bit of a misnomer, because she’s transformed two-dimensional canvases into three-dimensional sculptural objects. In a smart evolution from previous cut-canvas pieces that focused on what was behind the painted surface, this body of work takes into consideration both the painting and its surroundings.

Except for one portrait-sized piece attached high up on the gallery wall by one edge, and protruding into the room like a stiff flag,, all paintings on view are human scale and suspended by chains from the ceiling. The works are positioned at strategic angles and distances from one another, their cutouts and flaps framing parts of other paintings as well as the viewer’s body parts as the pieces faintly sway back and forth. These structural interventions, or “bonus holes” as catalogue essayist Matt Morris dubs them, challenge or “queer” traditional spatial and temporal reads of the work. These are paintings you look at but also see through.

Nelson’s work is abstract but haunted by the figure, and throughout “Recto/Verso,” her strength lies in withholding. The works’ bright, sometimes metallic palette, their patches of grafted-together color, noodle-shaped ghost forms silhouetted in spray paint, and tiny hairlike dashes echoing thin incisions in the canvases surface all belie the pieces’ emotional complexity. Evoking anxiety, longing, self-doubt, and pleasure, these are—rather then recto and verso—beginnings and ends.

— Thea Nichols