Annette Bezor

Luba Bilu Gallery

The self-consciously accessible textuality of Annette Bezor’s paintings is the source of their ability to fuel an active dislike. For “Imago Ignota,” her recent exhibition, Bezor presented images of the female body: of herself or her friends, naked in the poses of traditional art; of the faces of famous women; and of women glimpsed asleep or in sexual ecstasy. Many viewers find Bezor’s construction of upbeat feminine confidence more presumptuous than profound. Since she implies a (male) audience that will find her works both sexually exciting and challenging, Bezor is unable to hypothesize other likely witnesses—ones who see overwritten texts and subjective conjunctions. Her images flicker over the visual field like actors across a television screen. The subject of Large Head in Clouds, 1991, is superimposed onto a mottled field of autumn-leaf stains and framed by a blurred, brushy void. Projected over a patterned, stone-washed ground and snared in a dense web of leaves and flowers, the women in Entanglement Landscape—For Marie Antoinette, 1990, overlap like the transparencies from which they are drawn. Bezor’s work attempts the representation of exclusively female experiences. We immediately recognize deliberately subverted stereotypes, in order to celebrate feminine self-sufficiency and sexual pleasure. Thus, her paintings have affinities with the first wave of feminist art of the late ’60s. She insists that she is reclaiming the territory of the body from the demands of exclusively male symbolism.

Clearly, Bezor aspires to have her disrupted, hysterical parodies function critically. Instead of problematizing the erotic, Bezor piles metaphor over metaphor, flirting with dizzying spectacle to the extent that, disoriented, we are completely unsure as to the point at which our reading exceeds the painter’s intentions (the same question posed, of course, in earlier works by Eric Fischl). Entombed in thickets of flowers or enfolded in cursory brushmarks, these women represent a retreat from overheated revelation. Acknowledging the disjunction between journalistic feminism and her images’ dismemberment by montage, Bezor’s bodies are therefore those of real people—of her friends and herself.

At what point does a projection of male fantasy overpower the reading of sexual independence? Bezor sets a subtle trap. We realize that these women are neither young nor physically perfect; simultaneously we experience carnal desire’s uncertainty. This doubt is paralleled by our indecision as to whether the lurid backgrounds, for example, are painted, printed, or found fabrics. Even though they disrupt allegorical certainty, Bezor’s figures are no less symbolic than the historical women they replace. Bezor’s work assumes something quite dangerous but fascinating, and something that she may yet explore: that distance is created by allusions to the past and pornography. Seduction is legitimized by art history’s corpse exhumed.

Charles Green