Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco is pleased to present The Moon is Down, a solo exhibition of new works by contemporary Los Angeles artist Vanessa Prager. This will be Prager’s first solo show with Jenkins Johnson Gallery and features both paintings and drawings made over the last year. There will be an opening reception for the artist on Thursday, May 10th from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.
Influenced by classical painting, drawing, vintage photographs, film, and her love of animals, self-taught artist, Vanessa Prager presents us with beautifully rendered drawings produced using common blue and red ballpoint pens, as well as ethereal paintings on canvas. Prager is stylistically drawn to the “timeless quality” of the clothes and hairstyles of the forties and fifties. Her work touches briefly on luminaries such as Balthus, Rembrandt and Egon Schiele, while remaining original and un-derivative. Her love for the past, coupled with her attraction to contemporary pop-culture and Americana, is palpable and provides us with an entry point into Prager’s rich narrative. Prager is fond of color, which is omnipresent in both her canvas and works on paper. Through the high contrast application of her medium - the ballpoint pen, onto blank music paper, or through the use of diaphanous layers of applied paint - Prager weaves the viewer into her work as a protagonist in a thriller plot. Prager’s subjects range from figurative drawings, such as renderings of animals fit for a children’s storybook or a dream sequence, to more narrative scenes, such as a large audience engrossed by an oversized television, which is presented as a symbol of post-war consumerism and the endless American thirst for entertainment.
When presenting figures, Prager often bathes them in strong light with no apparent direct source, creating an ethereal dream-like nature to the work. Broad areas of purposefully unfinished details and omitted features draw attention to the piece while continuing the narrative. Akin to a skip on a record player or an abrupt ending to a still-unfinished story, Prager examines the omissions, playing with their glaring obviousness, investigating how the mind of the viewer fills in the gaps. Her tendency to examine these open spaces can be seen in the recent drawing “Try,” depicted above, a quintessential work from Prager’s oeuvre. She achieves a sense of light and shadow through various pressures and cross-hatching that seems like it should be impossible with a basic ballpoint pen, and yet the figure takes on a personality that is quite developed. This heightened reality is challenged by Prager’s omission of the upper left quadrant of the figure’s face, and we cannot but help focus on this open space. Prager’s thought-provoking and technically astounding drawings and moodily vaporous paintings are a window into the world of Vanessa Prager that intrigues and leaves us wanting to see more.
Vanessa Prager has been exhibited at galleries in New York and the greater Los Angeles area. Museum exhibitions include Santa Monica Museum of Art and upcoming, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The artist has received much critical acclaim in national press including W Magazine, Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Huffington Post, Nylon, among others. The Moon is Down marks Prager’s debut in San Francisco.