Nathan Larramendy


June 4 – July 29, 2007

Ojai, CA – May 14, 2007 – The Nathan Larramendy Gallery is pleased to announce the solo exhibition of recent work by San Francisco artist Kara Maria. Paradise Lost will be Maria’s first solo exhibition at the Nathan Larramendy Gallery. The gallery will host an afternoon reception on Saturday, June 9th, 3 to 5 pm. The exhibition will continue through July 29th, 2007. Maria will be present at the opening reception. Images are available upon request.

Kara Maria explores the politics of war and its influence on pervasive popular culture. During the Kosovo conflict of the late ’90s, Maria was struck by the use of rape as a war tactic and torture method. She began using images of pornography and combat to study the correspondence of sexual energy and the military. While there are hues of human subjugation and exploitation throughout her work, Maria does not create statements but rather explorations of power dynamics laid out in a brilliant ambiguity of color and symbols. In the wake of the culture-searing images of the Abu Ghraib prison, what Maria classifies as “pornography by the military,” Maria’s pornographic allusions became unisex.

Maria returned to similar themes recently while teaching a figure drawing class. She observed the limited place of the bare human form in the contemporary world: nudity seemed to be either private or vulgar in the context of mainstream culture. Using the naked and overtly sexual body (so often associated with pornography) as a landscape, Maria draws heavily on the military iconography of camouflage, a fluidly abstract configuration. Shifting to a more consumer-driven aesthetic, Maria studies the form and function of automobiles and their relation to a culture of consumption. Both military and pop culture references form a liminal space on which to exhibit a “synthetic” culture — the “old and new, high and low, sublime and vile” of a technological world in overdrive.

Using acrylics, Maria employs what she describes as a “manmade, manipulated process” to mix diverging elements of a world that is itself humanly manipulated. In place of a dominant central image, Maria often crafts a chaotic pattern, with recurring images repeated to create a landscape where the abstract meets U.S. Military fighter planes and birds in flight, and where monarch butterflies coexist in a frenetic reality with armed porn stars.

This exhibit is tied together by the vague theme of current events. Like the ongoing barrage of media updates provided by Maria’s working background of NPR broadcasts, Maria’s work weaves together seemingly disparate elements of domestic and foreign politics to engage them in a dialogue on canvas and paper. She compares her use of highly sexualized women, ground soldiers, cars, and butterflies to the “sampling” of other sources that is done in hip-hop music.

originally published May 14 2007

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