Currently on view at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery are two diametrically opposed bodies of work. The front space features Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig's painfully troubled figural works; in the rear are the tranquilly beautiful nature-inspired creations of well-known New York artist Judy Pfaff.
Honig, who trained at the Kansas City Art Institute, exhibits locally and nationally, including recent shows in Santa Fe and Canada. Her work can be found in such collections as the Fogg Art Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Yale University Art Gallery. The small sculptures and lithographs currently on view continue her interest in the issues and obstacles entrenched in the lives of women.
New for this artist is a series of small nude statuettes resembling dolls, titled “Avon Girls.” Made from cast urethane or bronze, these “girls' are differentiated only by their hair color and are positioned in an awkward stance as though they might easily fall over.
These “Precious Transformers,” as Honig refers them in her artist's statement, draw a line between figurine and fetish object; they are at once coquettish and childlike but also defensive and self-preserving. By endowing them with illogical physical proportions, the artist toys with the notion of ideal physical beauty and the damaging messages relayed to pubescent girls.
Two lithograph and mixed media images relate to recent tragedies involving little girls. “Ransom” references the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey. Honig portrays her as an overly made up little girl dressed in a cowgirl costume, with a bloodied wound at her neck. This seemingly sweet and delicate image conveys both the innocence of Jonbenet and the perverted notion of turning a 6-year-old into a beauty queen.
“Precious” acknowledges the case of the unidentified little girl named “Precious Doe.” A little girl's face appears on a small Bambi-like creature; empty cartoon bubbles appear around her head while the minute red dots around her neck signify
A small group of hand-colored lithographs echo old advertisements but contain a more sinister message. In “Confederate,” for instance, a pseudo Jayne Mansfield dressed in a peek-a-boo bra and garter appears beside the caption: “Ask this call girl where her money goes — milk and eggs and baby clothes.”
Honig's rich and relevant subject matter touches on many women's issues, including abuse, sexuality, victimization and the fixation with physical beauty at an early age.
The cornerstone for many of these evils rests on the shoulders of a society wherein physical beauty is valued above all other traits — a pervading message played out again and again through media and advertising.
Judy Pfaff is widely known for large-scale sculpture installations based on organic themes that she has been creating for more than 25 years.
She is also recognized for her prints, and the new series on view at Cohen consists of a few serene, oversized works combining photogravures and monochromatic linear drawings. To accomplish these meditative amalgams, Pfaff utilizes architectural blueprints, garden imagery and collages of natural elements.
An untitled work, striking in its combination of acidic green and genuine leaves, consists of three separate images connected together and framed as one unit.
Pfaff placed hand-drawn concentric circles next to a photogravure of an Asian garden that occupies the center of the piece.
On the right appears an oversized botanical drawing of a water lily leaf accompanied by actual plant fronds and leaves adhered to the surface.
Pfaff's work is very process-oriented, evidenced through her collage technique and the layered feel of each piece.
Instead of regular photography, Pfaff opted to use photogravures — a 19th-century technique of printing a photographic image from an engraving plate. She also adopted a stenciling process from computer-derived shapes of plants from scientific journals.
Pfaff acknowledges her interest in abstraction and invention, and “things that don't really exist but at the same time do exist.”
Her recent creations appear based on the principle of control over the natural world, and our need to create order out of chaos through neatly defined boundaries and spaces.
“Peregrine Honig” and “Judy Pfaff” continue at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery, 2020 Baltimore, through Feb. 28. Hours are 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and by appointment. Call (816) 421-5665 for information.