Alicia Ross: Hot Mess
Press Release / October 22 - November 21, 2010
Black & White Gallery, Brooklyn, NY is proud to present Hot Mess by Alicia Ross, the artist’s second solo exhibition at the gallery.
In Hot Mess, Alicia Ross explores the mechanism of the consensual production of symbolic values. She passionately tackles difficult subject matter and taboos within society and presents them as naked truth. The works’ often provocative appearances highlight the artist's ongoing exploration of ideas surrounding conflicting views of feminine identity in the contemporary society and the ubiquitous virtuous/voracious societal impulses towards the female form. Ross appropriates images from online media sources and digitally translates them into cross-stitched constructions, using the sewing machine as a drawing tool. The finished pieces reflect a fusion between hand-made traditions and digital aesthetics.
The exhibition centers around the series Phrenology Studies (2010), a group of 14 abstracted cross-stitched head studies of media-made female celebrities drawing reference from the debunked pseudoscience of phrenology which associated the shape and look of one's skull (illustrated with a map of the head) to their moral character. This diagram of the head as well as the basic theory of phrenology—“reading” the surface of the head to determine personality, morality or character— laid the conceptual foundation for this series. All portraits are appropriated from online news sources depicting various celebrity women. These women, many household names, reflect society's finicky praise of some who seemingly stray from societal norms while condemning others for similar behavior. Juxtapositions astutely point out these inconsistencies like the Octomom, Michelle Duggar and Kate Gosselin. Moreover, several head studies embody the Madonna/whore conflict, which has been so prevalent in other bodies of work by Ross.
The exhibition also includes other works, such as Motherboard_11 (Down Boy) (2010), Philosophy Devouring Uranus, (2009) and Motherboard_8 (2008) with some of the figures remidiated from pornography sites, others appropriated from sites that display famous works of art and fashion websites.
Over the last decade, Alicia Ross has been focusing her artistic practice on questioning the public dissection of female roles by the media and society at large. Her work has evolved to encompass various facets of female identity using photography, fiber, video, and installation. Raised in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, Ross now splits her time between Ohio and Texas after receiving her MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. Ross's solo exhibition Sacred_Profane debuted at debuted at Black & White Gallery, New York in 2008, receiving New York Magazine's Critics' Pick and favorable reviews in Flash Art Magazine and The Village Voice. Most recently, an interview with Ross was featured on the blog of the PBS Documentary Series Art:21.