Caroline Larsen: Kaleidoscopic
The Hole is proud to present the second solo show by Canadian-born painter Caroline Larsen, “Kaleidoscopic”. In thirteen new oil paintings she does a deep-dive into her floral works making a series still-life paintings of elaborate bouquets in equally elaborate vases. Pushing both her icing-thick painting technique forward with new innovations and her floral theme forward with a concentrated study of the still-life genre, Larsen here makes both her wildest and most mature works.
The history of still life painting begun in the Dutch Golden Age takes a seriously weird turn here as both flowers, vase and background are taken over the top in hue and texture. Since a floral arrangement in a vase was allowed to be the sole subject of a painting at the turn of the 17th century, both scientifically showing off the diversity of nature’s bounty and prosaically immortalizing it as a symbol of wealth and power, this genre has endured in many iterations across the movements and centuries. Here in 2019 Larsen uses Art Deco and Rococo Revival-era vases to present impossibly colorful and thick flower arrangements against optically scintillating backgrounds.
The vases in these paintings go back to a Qing-era Chinese enamel vase to Rococo revival styles of porcelain mid 19th century, though the majority of the vases are from Longwy, France during the Art Deco period. The very round boule vases for example are from this faiencerie, whose overglaze enamel decoration became world famous in 1925 during the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts where the term “Art Deco” was coined. Similar to cloisonné, these vases lend themselves to Larsen’s stained-glass style of discrete color zones piled high with pigment. Overflowing each vase are beautifully impossible-colored tiger lilies, leopard spotted pansies, parti-colored zinnias, neon edged leaves and purple polka dotted tulips.
In terms of painting technique, here we find Larsen (already a weaver of oil paint) climbing higher to even thicker and more gravity-defying piles of paint. Using bags of oil paint with icing nibs, she squirts and squeezes the paint into confectionary piles, frosting the panel with tubular and Spiro-form extrusions. In this show she experiments with depth by adding both scraped away areas and inches-thick piles of paint; the chunkiest monkey she started in May adding layer after layer over months as it dried. Also debuting here are silly-string spritzes and plumply pipetted linework not seen previously in her oeuvre.
The combination of the fondant formalism and the techno-deco subject matter of each painting is pretty psycho, tbh. I would euphemistically call it “questioning notions of taste” but really they kinda explode the idea of aesthetic taste. For paintings with such a gustatory suggestiveness, they are just about as “tasteful” as a mouthful of oil paint. Oil paint was invented to allow light to shine through it creating the illusion of volume and living flesh; squirting a giant blob of it directly onto the canvas is like the exact wrong way to do it. Using a tool wrong is a great area for artistic exploration and here Larsen is perverting paint’s intended use, perverting the intent of the still life genre and the decorative arts! If the paintings look perversely disobedient this might be why.
Caroline Larsen (b. 1980 Toronto, Canada) received her MFA with honors at Pratt in 2015 and has exhibited widely since, including solo exhibitions in 2018 at Andrew Rafacz in Chicago, Dio Horia in Mykonos, Greece and General Hardware in Toronto. Gordon Gallery in Tel Aviv and Craig Krull in Santa Monica both presented solo exhibitions in 2017 and for our part “Kabloom!” introcued our audience to her work summer of 2016. She currently has work in “The Beyond: Georgia O’Keefe” at the North Caroline Museum of Art, a traveling exhibition curated by and beginning at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AK. She has participated in group exhibitions at Guerrero Gallery and Greenpoint Terminal Gallery and has work in the Dean Collection, the Aisthti Foundation, JB Art Collection Miami, TD Canada, the Donovan Collection and numerous other public collections around the world.