November 11 – December 22, 2023
In the center of the nation’s film industry, it seems only appropriate that realms of painting and film would merge to create alluring new perspectives and narratives. Such is the case at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, with an exhibition, Audition, wherein multidisciplinary artist Amy Adler gives us a glimpse into the emotional experience of those who stand before the camera.
Adler’s numerous passions, including performance and film, thematically overlap into her painting quite literally – creating cinematic images which have all been reimagined from still frames, extracted from one of her previous short films.
These large-scale paintings of vivid forms (all from 2023) have been rendered with oil pastel, using a simple palette of blue, green, ochre, and brown. When zoomed in, we see that they are meticulously speckled with infinite, miniscule dots to create a pointillist effect. Based on the underlying dark texture seeped through these canvases, she presumably developed her layers of color from a background of pure black, painstakingly accumulating shimmering flecks with which to spring her characters and settings to life.
The title pieces Audition No. 1-5 show various snapshots of a potentially career-changing tryout. The fragility of the subject, a pretty blonde woman presented in various poses, is perhaps betrayed by her subtly uneasy facial expressions and vulnerable posturing. With a blank setting geared for inspection, and merely a wooden stool as crutch, wouldn’t anyone feel put on the spot? How long this audition lasted, what kind of performance the casting session was for, and whether or not it yielded a successful verdict, are all questions left to the viewer’s imagination.
Adler’s work possesses a graphic aesthetic, with clean cut designs and illustrative narratives which, although candid, aren’t necessarily simple, offering hints of the swelling, unspoken emotions stored beneath the actor’s collected gaze.
Ingenue (No. 1 & 2) speaks to the charming naivety of a young actress. Fueled by life’s potential promises while unsure of future’s fate, she typically seeks a quick fix of validation while posing for a selfie in the restroom. Considering the notion that actors, especially extras, are often viewed as little more than transient props, the resilience needed to combat such pressures can be sensed in The Locker Room. Here, a blank row of lockers, shared among ambitious performers, not only implies solitude, but also the inevitable conversations, competitive dynamics, and likely comradery formed between scenes.
With an underlying, suspended tension throughout, this series’ sentiments are shown through a very modern lens. These works not only speak to those fragile specimens of Hollywood, but to contemporary culture at large, which inevitably subjects itself to the scrutiny of audiences derived through the numerous facets of everyday life.
Cover image: Audition No. 1; all images courtesy Night Gallery, photographed by the author.