The goddess Venus, 2015-2016
Ink wash and metallic acrylic on paper
31.8 x 27.6 cm
[from the pressrelease]
Dumas is widely regarded as one of the most influential painters working today. Over the past four decades, she has continuously probed the complexities of identity and representation in her work. Her paintings and drawings are often culled from a vast archive of images collected by the artist, including art-historical materials, mass media sources, and personal snapshots of friends and family. Gestural, fluid, and frequently spectral, Dumas’s works reframe and recontextualize her subjects, exploring the ambiguous and shifting boundaries between public and private selves.
Displayed both framed and in a vitrine, Dumas’s thirty-three works on paper narrate Shakespeare’s story of Venus and Adonis, which drew on Ovid’s mythological poem The Metamorphoses. Adonis, renowned for his otherworldly beauty, spurns Venus’s love for him, choosing instead the thrill of the hunt. Recklessly ignoring Venus’s warnings, Adonis is ultimately slain by a wild boar, with his spilled blood lending its color to the bloom of the anemone (as depicted in The flower, 2015–2016). In these works—alternately delicate and aggressive, tranquil and frenzied—the artist captures the polarity of a star-crossed union of opposites, arguing, like Venus, for the embrace of desire in the face of war.
Encompassing a diverse array of scales, styles, and subjects, Dumas’s new works respond more than ever to the uncertainty and sensuality of the painting process itself. Allowing the structure of the canvases and the materiality of the paint greater freedom to inform the development of her compositions, the artist has likened the creation of these works to the act of falling in love: an unpredictable and open-ended process that is as filled with awkwardness and anxiety as it is with bliss and discovery.