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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JANUARY 15TH - FEBRUARY 21ST, 2004
Debs & Co. is pleased to present Riot, a series of new paintings by Joy Garnett. Riot will be Ms. Garnett's third solo exhibition at Debs & Co.
These new paintings in Riot depict people in emotional distress, the figure in extremity. As in much of Ms. Garnett's previous work, the causes behind the explosive action are generally political in nature. The immediate sources for these acts and images are often taken from newspapers and other media. Her re-casting of these visuals plays with the history of history painting itself.
In Molotov, the artist has painted a monumental figure of a long haired youth in a black beret throwing a freshly lit molotov cocktail. The heroically-proportioned figure twists off the frame of the painting, his home-made bomb front and center, the recognizable logo of the cola bottle smeared into a not-so-funny red, white and blue, while his face is contorted into a sneer of pure hatred. Whatever background existed in the original image has been reduced to the blank grayish blue of smoke. The figure, in his moment of action, is removed from his surroundings; the context, cause, time and place, or justice of his actions are irrelevant and not portrayed. What is important to the painter is the extremity of the figure's emotions, not whether they are right or wrong.
[For information regarding the legal dispute that once surrounded this work, go to http://www.firstpulseprojects.com/joywar.html]
In Air Strip, Ms. Garnett portrays a man and woman in a deep embrace. The familiar looking couple stand in the center of the large horizontal canvas, their stance uncomfortably intimate and awkward. In this painting, the background, while abstracted, is recognizable as a desert air field, and the nose-cones behind the man's shoulder and his own Air Force fighter pilot uniform signal that this is a farewell taken from our current war. Nevertheless, Ms. Garnett depicts the two in a twister of baroque impasto which renders whatever political meaning originally intended for the image utterly banal, or even camp. The point here is passion, and the experience of it.
The notion of heightened emotion removed from cause is particularly evident in paintings such as Jump and Leap, in which young men jump through the fires lit during World Trade Organization protests. The riot is here exterior and interior: the young men risk life and limb for no particular purpose, other than the thrill of it. The ecstasy experienced has no real connection with the original intention of the protests; these boys have shown up after the fact to play with fire for the sake of playing with fire.
Ms. Garnett has recently appeared in Americana at SVA, curated by Anne Ellegood and Rachel Gugelberger and in The UFO Show at Illinois State University Galleries; in 2004 she will appear in For Real: War and the Contemporary Audience at Stony Brook University, and at other venues including the National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC. Ms. Garnett had her first solo exhibition at Debs & Co. in 1999 and her second in 2001. In 2002, she was the curator of Night Vision, a travelling exhibition which was shown at White Columns here in New York. She received her MFA from the City College of New York in 1991 and studied in Paris at L'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts from 1985 to 1987. She lives and works in New York City.