[January 19 2021]
Enter the world of Amanda Wall, where textures reign supreme; hair coarse, pink-hued skin soft, wax sweating and the interiors somehow slippery. When opening the door of Danny First’s The Cabin Gallery (an unassuming black painted space set back behind a wall of bamboo on a residential West Hollywood street) visitors are invited to play the child opening their mothers jewelry box. Colors and textures peel from the walls, and the paintings – hung in salon style – begin to breathe.
Self taught painter, Wall, creates a sense of rapture in her work. Her figures are generous, plush and supple, however there is a yielding; no figure is ever revealed in its entirety. Often faceless, or blocked by an outstretched arm or leg, these paintings offer a vernacular of intrigue and vagaries generating an atmosphere that befits the exhibition title ‘Juicy’.
Wall’s greatest strength is in her textures and, more specifically, her ability to paint clear materials. ‘Blue Bouquet’ depicts a woman – one eye, an eyebrow, a soft black sweater and a combination of limbs – this is all we have access to behind the blue bouquet in the center taking up most of the painting’s composition. However, this is anything but a painting of flowers. The woman is revealed through her flowers’ thin plastic wrapping. The tactile experience in seeing this painting, I almost rub my thumb and forefinger together as if holding the familiar texture in hand. Is it in her lack of visibility that we read vulnerability in the subject or the childlike embrace of her knee? Or rather, is it simply a projection from the viewer? As for the narrative of the painting, little is given away, which remains the point, though the implication is that, considering the plastic is still on, these flowers were recently acquired. It is in these small details (a simple silver ring that reoccurs, a stiletto or particularly iconic pair of thigh high leather boots) that the nuances of Wall’s paintings sing. The details are just enough to give us the questions, though remain withholding and refuse to share any answers. Who is this woman? What was the reason for the flowers? How does she feel? Any answers drawn are inconclusive at best.
‘Blue Bouquet’ is not the only instance of Wall’s mastery of translucence. ‘Puddle’ features, well, a puddle, though the source of the water remains unclear in one of her most compelling and challenging paintings, in which two mostly nude (spare the iconic boots and one lingering sock) figures – women, likely – interact facelessly amidst a pink so pink I can’t help but think of Natassja Kinski’s sweater in Paris, Texas. Her highly stylized works are littered with cultural references. The feverish painting reads dreamlike. Similar to ‘Blue Bouquet’ some clues have been left, but unguided, viewers are invited to put the pieces together and fill in the blanks to construct a full scene.
Though Wall’s painting technique may be traditional, evoking realism through painterly distortion, her subject matter is a highly contemporary look at objects in use today and the subtle signifiers (accessories, color, texture) that render an aesthetic. Her works are abstracted yet at once recognizable and the confusion she lends is soothing in its familiarity.
‘Juicy’ is Amanda Wall’s first solo exhibition. It is on view at The Cabin in Los Angeles, CA through January 2021.
Text by Kate Caruso, photos by Dana Boulos