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Late Winter Light
Francesca Minini Gallery, Milan 2018
Link to exhibition on gallery website
Late Winter Light is an exhibition of works which reveals Beasley’s ongoing exploration of emotion and ambiguity in relation to everyday life and the human condition. The sense of precariousness that has always formed the basis of Beasley’s poetics has not disappeared, but is now accompanied by a form of serene acceptance. Color, for years set aside in favor of the black and white of silver gelatin photographs, has become an almost constant presence. The colors are for the most part softened, cast in a pale light: the light of late winter, as the title suggests. But it is a light that heralds the more intense and warmer light of the spring. It features works from the first phase of her career– including a series of early, previously unseen polaroids– alongside a selection of recent works from two exhibitions from 2017– Ous, and A Gentle Man, which was described by Roberta Smith in the New York Times as “impeccable”. Presented for the first time outside of the UK is the room installation, The Seat Cushion (A Mourning Joke), 2017.
The exhibition titled Ous (Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, UK, 2017) was inspired by a late watercolor by Eric Ravilious, a British painter, designer and illustrator who died in the Second World War in 1942, at the age of 39. This work, The Bedstead, shows the hotel room where Ravilious found himself confined by bad weather when he came to Le Havre in the spring of 1939, intending to paint en plein air: a modest room, mostly occupied by a metal bed. Beasley chose the watercolor (which occupied a central position in the show) as the key note for a delicate symphony of works that touched on many themes (love and grief, domestic interiors, the garden), linking the story of Ravilious to the story of a personal friend who had suffered a loss.
Another element that has come to the fore of Beasley’s work in her most recent shows is autobiography; and more specifically—since the artist’s life has always been present in her works—a frank new approach to private matters such as love and motherhood. In one of her most forthright works in this sense is the set of posters Foresight I-VI (2015): private life and professional life run parallel to each other, reflect each other, intertwine: this is Beasley’s quiet but firm response to a widespread (typically male) attitude that tries to separate the two spheres, or even present them as conflicting.
The show embraces all the media used by the artist – photography, sculpture, and, most recently, video– and touches on many of the most characteristic aspects of her work, starting with the long-distance dialogue that Beasley carries on with artists from the past– here, the English war artist Eric Ravilious, and the writer Bernard Malamud, whose story Spring Rain was the inspiration behind A Gentle Man.
In a passage which Beasley herself cites, Malamud writes that the point of a short story is “to say everything that must be said and to say it quickly, fleetingly, as though two people had met for a moment in a restaurant, or a railroad station, and one had time only to tell the other they are both human, and, here, this story proves it.” This may be a writer’s (marvelous) definition of a literary form, but it also perfectly describes the spirit of Beasley’s work in recent years. In the end, inside the sophisticated web of citation and reference, what is expressed is the pressing need to say is one thing, always the same: that both artist and viewer are human. And, here, this exhibition—Late Winter Light—proves it. (Simone Menegoi)
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