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“Engender”
Kohn Gallery, Hollywood, California
by Michael Shaw


Jansson Stegner, “Julie,” 2017, oil on linen, 38 x 24”


Continuing through January 13, 2018

“Engender” is a handsome show of 17 painters who strive to go “beyond the binary” in the representation of gender identity. But it feels more like a cross-section of relevant (for the most part) contemporary figurative painting. That said, the strongest works here do convey varying degrees of gender ambiguity; others may sway towards ‘engenderment’ by proxy, but ultimately function as aesthetic filler.

Head-on grapplers with the non-binary include Jansson Stegner’s “Julie," a mannered portrait that has strong shades of John Currin but nonetheless imposes tremendous insight and vision in its depiction of a buff volleyball player with a petite, Dorothy Gale-like head full of braided pigtails. The result is far more complex than a simple exquisite corpse mashup.

Another standout is Christina Quarles — a concurrent participant in the lauded New Museum show "Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” — a painter with a light and deft touch who makes a strong case for figuration’s continuing relevance. Though breasts are identifiable in each of her three paintings here, there’s no gender conclusiveness amidst the two figures’ engagement in sex and/or contemplation. The vibe they give off implies “I really don’t care what you think,” perhaps as powerful a sentiment as “Engender" could strive for.

Kohn Gallery

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