Perfect for Her marks American artist Sarah Faux’s second solo exhibition at Capsule Shanghai. In this body of work presented exclusively through two mediums - cut-out canvas collages and monotype prints - Faux delves deeper into her longstanding exploration of corporeal experiences through a feminine gaze.
Faux's cut-outs, rendered in larger-than-life dimensions and mounted on a white wall, thrust viewers into an up-close position in relation to their subjects. Like artists Joan Semmel and Luchita Hurtado from an earlier generation, who adopted the perspective of looking down onto one’s own body, Faux picks up this strategy but adapts it into abstract forms. In doing so, Faux demands the active participation of the viewer to perceive the bodies before them.
If her paintings on canvas tell a story, then Faux’s cut-out pieces could be considered verses and phrases extracted from it. Forming constellations on the wall, these collages both visualize and stimulate a non- linear progression of thoughts as one peruses through them. Some pieces flirt with the unknown (Complicated Game, 2020), while others try to contain a thought (Close Parenthesis, 2020).
Several of Faux’s collages imply forms in repose, like Headrush (2020), emanating the viewer into a moment of solitary privacy. By isolating body parts, Faux undertakes what writer Maggie Nelson does with poetry. In describing something very specific and material, both Faux and Nelson pull you into a state of mind, an emotional landscape. Faux emulates Nelson’s Bluets, a collection of hybrid prose and poetry published in 2009, documenting the writer’s multifaceted experience of the color blue through lost love, grief and solitude while referencing art, literature and philosophy. In Faux’s piece entitled Bluet (2020), she similarly utilizes this single color's multifaceted capacities. Opaque blue pigment permeates a torso, set against pale-skinned legs, reminding one of a moment of recoil, coolness on the skin, numbness from an elevated leg, or even idleness of the mind. As Faux invests in this color itself, Bluet becomes a portal for the subliminal.
Side by side with her collages, Faux presents unique single-edition prints (monotypes) that translate her subjects into varied, washy fields. Her prints use watercolor, crayon and collage parts on a plexiglass plate that is then run through a printing press. Through this process, the artist turns ephemeral feelings into swaths of colors and swiftly made marks. These monotypes unfold slowly, demanding the viewer’s time and patience. In other words, Faux’s monotypes are true to her intention, extending the moment between perception and recognition, leaving a temporal crevice for the viewer’s gaze to explore corporeal landscapes in which ineffable psyches and emotions are untethered from our transient beings.
The show’s title, Perfect for Her, articulates an anticipation for flawless femininity, informed by social norms. Yet the works on display – contorted bodies, disjointed limbs, gestural brushwork – trigger perceptual dissonance. As the viewer actively engages in piecing together the visual fragments Faux lays out, one is compelled to fill in the missing parts of the sentence. "What is perfect for her, who decides what's perfect, and how is such perfection conveyed?" For answers, Faux relies on a self-determined subjectivity in her image-making, encouraging viewers to awaken their own takes on the physical and emotional experiences that inform an individual sense of self.
Text: Fiona He