Weaving cultural critique with humor, visual pleasure and the occasional sucker punch, the work of San Diego-based painter, sculptor and installation artist Jean Lowe has addressed human vanity—our relationship to other species, the environment, sexism, an insatiable craving for self-help, etc.—for over 35 years. Borrowing vocabularies from art history, literature, film, historic decoration, design, and commercial retail spaces, the artist is known for her labor intensive and fiercely handmade papier- mâche environments as well as paintings of unpeopled interiors.
Lowe’s new work cheekily rejects the notion of artistic hierarchies—specifically, lining up the male dominated and austere SoCal Light and Space movement with paintings of European baroque interiors for a top tier cage fight. She asserts that ultimately both practices have significant overlap—a goal of sensory transcendence and destabilization of observed experience. Her painted interiors combine static and reflected imagery and are intentionally vertiginous in terms of perspective—another parry into the artist’s career-long interest in, and defense of, the possibilities of decoration as a mellifluous, expansive and sometimes exhilarating visual language. In this exhibition, Gallery 2 is loosely constructed as an installation: a folding chair with the absent guard’s reading material (Erving Goffman’s seminal work on social psychology, expounded in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life) sits adjacent to the paintings, deftly puncturing the idea of the classic white cube.
Lowe has recently added videos and still photography (collaborating with Lile Kvantaliani) to her oeuvre. The skits presented in Gallery 3 in the Standard Broadcast video loop strike at serious content matter from unexpected and humorous perspectives. Playing several different characters (female, male, drag, and lesbian) Lowe skirts around content related to gender issues, our relationships to other species, and the environment. The hope is that a surprise left hook may offer the opportunity for reappraisal of settled, orthodox attitudes. This gallery also features funky, handmade “Barcelona” seating for viewing comfort, as well as a selection of stills and behind-the-scenes photos from the video skits. Here, aspirational signaling is free of charge. In spite of the new medium, this work operates in a similar vein to earlier projects, addressing serious topics from unexpected angles with a generous splash of wit.