Critics’ Picks

Jasmine Gregory, Sugar High, 2019, oil on linen, 66 7/8 x 78 3/4".

Jasmine Gregory, Sugar High, 2019, oil on linen, 66 7/8 x 78 3/4".


Jasmine Gregory

Karma International
Weststrasse 75
November 16, 2020–January 23, 2021

Fluorescent green eyebrows arch across the ominously contented expressions of a Clifford-like big red dog and a woman with matching green nails in Jasmine Gregory’s “Trouble at Casa Amor.” It’s like they’re in on the same joke, perhaps the human condition—the clunkiness of being and performing a self—that is the show’s primary subject. The artist understands the stakes of figurative painting as essentially those of reality itself, homing in on its construction and deflating its pretensions by drawing on reality TV, including the show Love Island, from which Gregory’s exhibition title is lifted.

Here, lurid colors saturate into voluptuous, vaguely grotesque forms that tap into how exaggeration can crystallize realness, sharing the unabashed tone of John Waters’s campy extravaganzas—Hot Gas, 2020, makes direct reference to Divine as the increasingly monstrous (and fabulous) Dawn Davenport. Unlike Waters’s films, in which Baltimore (Gregory grew up nearby) is its own character, her paintings resist any concrete sense of place. She tries on the likes of Titian’s woodland landscapes for size, trading the supple nude for a saggy clown in Sugar High, 2019, decorating its meadow with cartoon flowers stuck on like Lisa Frank stickers. The artifice of girlish Technicolor and a macho history of painting become tools at Gregory’s disposal, confronting each other again in One of the Boys, 2019, where a paunchy jester waggles what appears to be a daisy dick in a pink glade right out of The Sims. Reality parades across Gregory’s canvases in various puckish guises, gathered not to dispel illusions, but instead to insist, outrageously, upon them.