Two Painters: Annelie McKenzie and Craig Taylor

CB1 Gallery; Saturday, March 14

According to the program notes at Anneilie McKenzie’s debut exhibition at Clyde Beswick’s CB1 gallery in DTLA, her paintings draw upon the sensational murder of 50-year-old Jean-Paul Marat on July 13, 1793 by Charlotte Corday. In January of that year, King Louis XVI had been executed (his wife would be executed in October), and physician-turn-revolutionary spokesperson Marat had been put on trial regarding his knowledge of a massacre of over a thousand Royalists the year before. He had been acquitted, but not in the eyes of a young woman who feared his power to inspire the proletariat. Marat’s affliction by a skin disease limited his public political visibility, but his renitent proclamations assured his role in influencing the uncertain course of the French Revolution. His palliative required hours of soaking in a bathtub, and Corday took advantage of his confinement and need for constant remedy to kill him with a knife.

McKenzie’s paintings make use of paintings made shortly after Marat’s death depicting his assassination. Done in a florid, yet acutely rendered manner, and generous enough with paint to lend a touch of the melodramatic to the scene, the image of the assassination is almost instantaneously recognizable to anyone at all familiar with history. Walking into the first of two rooms containing McKenzie’s work, I hadn’t checked any titles or consulted the program at all, and within ten seconds recognized her subject matter. In all, there are over a half-dozen fairly large paintings accompanied by a couple of studies. Each radiates the palpable aftershocks of one person having killed another. Murder, Corday’s effulgent body language seems to say, is different than I had expected; politically motivated assassination is even more estranging, and the thick gullies of paint deployed by McKenzie hint at overtones of a bas-relief meant to enfold the historical panorama that Corday suddenly comprehends herself to be permanently and irrevocably detained within.

Given the choice of a dramatic subject and the program’s reference to a play called The Female Enthusiast, I was somewhat surprised to learn in a conversation with McKenzie’s that she was not at all aware of Peter Weiss’s play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, as Performed by the Inmates at the Asylum at Charenton, under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. As a theatrical tour-de-force, it was to the musical Hair was what Altamont was to Woodstock. Marat/Sade demolished the joyful optimism of Hair and reminded us all of the insatiability of history’s dialectic.

The exhibit accompanying McKenzie’s might best be summed with a theatrical comparison. Craig Taylor’s Enface is ahistorical, though the erosive enchantment of temporality seeps into each brush stroke, congealed, effaced, and then renewed. If McKenzie’s paintings evoke Brecht (there are outlined hearts floating all around the circumference of one depiction; idealistic action, in this alienation device, gets its comeuppance for allowing itself to be betrayed into criminal transgression), then Taylor is closer to Samuel Beckett. Here we are allowed to see our daily world within the pattern making domination of an eternal cycle in which the life force dissolves but never disintegrates. The afterimage for me was of a sculpture of an enormous pelvis, which had been flattened and stretched out, then stained with well-disciplined yearning for the equilibrium of non-redemption. Call it a brief foray into a peaceable kingdom. Along with McKenzie’s paintings, this show is well worth the drive.

Wednesday – Friday, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. 
or by appointment


1923 S. Santa Fe Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90021



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