New York

Beatrice Marchi, Summer in the North, 2016, pastel and acrylic on wood, 40 1/4 × 55".

Beatrice Marchi, Summer in the North, 2016, pastel and acrylic on wood, 40 1/4 × 55".

Beatrice Marchi


Beatrice Marchi, Summer in the North, 2016, pastel and acrylic on wood, 40 1/4 × 55".

For those suffering from the most standard form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the lack of sunlight in the winter months causes depression. Italian artist Beatrice Marchi’s “Summer in the North with Loredana” opened in the middle of a New York winter that was darker than most. Yet in Marchi’s show, malaise was rooted as much in cultural and technological shifts as it was in seasonal change. That is to say that each passing season simply introduced a different flavor of depression.

In Loredana Across the Seasons, 2017, an animation of pastel-drawn images, a female figure with auburn hair is seen from behind as she contemplates a series of landscape paintings rushing by her; a wistful acoustic guitar track (the kind that might accompany an infomercial for a European holiday destination) accompanies. Moving in a sweeping motion from right to left (swipe left for no?), Bruegel winters, Poussin autumns, and Gauguin summers pass the woman, who has the claws of a crustacean in place of arms, which she drags absent-mindedly through her hair. The pink claws, of which there were wearable sculptural versions in the exhibition, suggest a somatization of depression: not the full abjection of Franz Kafka’s cockroach, but an awkward faunal prosthesis like Pinocchio’s donkey ears, which marked him as a sinner.

Marchi’s two large pastel-acrylic paintings, made on wooden boards with curved edges reminiscent of an iPad, were depictions of this same figure in awkward relation to landscape paintings. In F/W 2016 (in black), 2016, the body only vaguely registers, veiled by dark-green hills and valleys, though hands, eyes, and labia are distinctly defined. Each stroke of pastel runs from bottom left to top right, creating a breezy upsweep (think of the pull-and-conceal of a Gerhard Richter squeegee), though the works retain a graphic, deliberate froideur. The woman fully reveals her grotesque body in Summer in the North, 2016, where she lies on her back, naked on a sunny beach, contorting her hips and legs so that she directly faces her ass, which has an eye on each buttock and labia for a mouth. From the eyes of both faces stream thick tears that shimmer in the golden sun. Like a snake eating its tail, the figure stares into an abyss of selfhood and self-pity.

In a second animated video drawn in the style of a children’s picture book, our protagonist talks to her sad ass, which appears as though on a Skype conversation on an iPad screen. The ass, conveying a form of rootedness, prefers to speak its native Italian and chides her head for speaking English. “Your obsession with having a BFF is ridiculous!” the woman lashes back, reluctant to be chained to the literally left behind. The video ends as the ass receives a makeover reminiscent of a YouTube tutorial, replete with heavy contouring, false eyelashes, and labial lipstick, while a naively delivered hip-hop song about best friends plays her out. Like the rest of the show, this piece is lightly yet viscerally comic, while seeking to convey the estranging feeling of staring at a black glass on which the friendships, selfhoods, and emotions of the past commingle with those of the present. Small black paintings on glass, at iPad scale, portray lost eyes gazing out; they hang around the space from white ribbons, like teenage sad-girl charms or nostalgic relics. Depression, as they say, is a feeling of homesickness experienced when you are already home. Staring into the dark, it’s hard not to feel it.

Laura McLean-Ferris