Navigating Proximities: Ana Kazaroff & Alicia Reyes-McNamara with b.Dewitt Gallery
Emoji summary: ☁️ 🌌 ➰
a few weeks ago I saw a tweet w a forgettable caption, but a photo attached. it was a pic of some graffiti scrawled across a postbox or over the opening of a street bin, n it read: “it’s not magic realism if it’s not latin american”. Full disclosure, idk what magic realism rly is. it’s just been one of those terms that i never bothered to google n if someone honestly asked me to describe it i would struggle. it exists in my imaginary as a descriptor for the way some song sequences function within south asian cinema; i feel like in bollywood, sometimes things are described as dreamscapes when they are not, they are magic realism kinda (halfway, a bit). i think, as a term, it is a way to categorise and understand the blurred line between reality, metaphor and myth that exists quite happily and unquestioningly outside of the white-european history of rationality & cynicism. If that makes sense?
i know we don’t normally do theory, but for once i guess i’d like to write through magic realism n how i’m using it to navigate my thoughts RE: the art. Bc i think if i hadn’t seen this tweet, i would’ve reacted differently. it wouldn’t be this slow sizzle like a berocca dissolving in a glass of water; i don’t think this show would’ve landed right n it wouldn’t have stuck with me the same way. all the same; this week’s review is Navigating Proximities at A/side-B/side Gallery in Hackney, a show that’s 100% paintings. it’s 2 artists: Ana Kazaroff & Alicia Reyes-McNamara, it was curated by b.Dewitt gallery, a project run by Ashleigh Barice & Teresa Cisneros. So, as you walk in there is one wall of paintings by both artists, staggered on a pink/green gradient wall; the other wall has more paintings staggered across, but is white. It feels like a stupid thing to say, but I am glad this was it. i am sometimes happy sometimes unsatisfied by paintings generally, i never know what makes them enough for me to be happy with them; but this time around i think perhaps it is just about having more than one painter’s paintings on the wall, in the gallery, in the show etc. Maybe what I need for me to like a show full of paintings, is that blurred gradient of soft collaboration (the soft collaboration of putting ur work next to each other, of not manspreading into the other’s chair, but gently resting on the seat next to each other.) maybe that’s what i’ve been looking for all this time?/?/? it was also small touches, like all of Ana Kazaroff’s paintings have bevelled edges, smoothed corners, and a slight gloss; n slight of hand like that goes a long way in making something as unchanging as a painting feel overhauled. the bevelled edges did truthfully blow my mind; especially bc there was one painting with a blue undercoat and then a brown sprayed over top, and you could just see the blue on the edges where the paint didn’t reach, in the grooves of the edge. it was wildly satisfying.
there was one painting that rly grabbed me;; another by Ana Kazaroff, of a flaming dolphin torpedo speeding through the sky towards a beaming slither and a snake body, with a chalice trailing behind its glowing tail. i think this is why I am thinking about this show through magic realism, bc i think if i hadn’t seen that tweet i’d have been happy to chalk these paintings up to humour and absurdity, a fun visual gag v in tune with twitter’s sense of humour n that abstract comedy of ‘there is no punchline, i’ve just been laughing at this picture of a fridge on a staircase for 15 minutes’. Like, there was one painting called ‘Comandante Chuck Norris’, and it was Chuck Norris in a mad scifi space-y galaxy helmet with a glowing gemstone on is chest. McNamara’s paintings are almost all of headless, slinky bodies in acid bright neon colours in poses so weird they feel comical in a darker, less abstract way. But i don’t think they are meant to be funny, you know? i think they are sincere in their strangeness, and i think the idea of this strangeness is so alien and vague that it feels like it’d be careless of me to call it funny or abstract in its weird humour. n i think that’s why it made me think of my weird undefined n misunderstood comprehension of magic realism. when I was at the gallery, Teresa was talking to me about this painting of the speeding dolphin torpedo (it’s called Amor de Lejos) n she said something about how the artist’s cousin had soul-bonded with a dolphin, a platonic (?) love, but real love nonetheless; that this painting was perhaps the artist’s way of working through n processing that. It just reminded me of one time my uncle (in a rare moment of reflection) told me a story his parents told him about when he was a fresh out the womb baby. Apparently he was small, in a crib in their house in Dar es Salaam, and a snake got into the house and found its way over to his crib. His mum looked on in horror as the snake slithered up to the crib where he was sleeping (it sounded like it was less a crib and more a basket on the floor) and peeked in to look at him. His mum turned her head to scream for his dad who was outside, but when she turned her head back, the snake was gone. it had disappeared off the floor in this corner of their house and was nowhere to be seen or found. Now ofc my uncle has taken this story n ran with it, saying he believes that as a toddler he fought off this enormous cobra, ate it or absorbed it and retained its spiritual animal powers. but my uncle’s fable aside, this weird small moment of life and reality feeling altered or magical and unbelievable in a vague and unexplainable way feels like the tone of the show, it feels like that’s what magic realism is, isn’t it. this connection with the body and with the subconscious, this blurring of states, dream, metaphor, real life, soft and slow and with smoothed edges, this show felt like a nice close to that circle. a whole circle, softer in weight and lighter to carry, but full nonetheless.
Navigating Proximities closes on 26th June, and is hosted by A/side-B/side in Hackney Central. This show was curated by b.Dewitt gallery, an itinerant project run by Ashleigh Barice and Teresa Cisneros
I was invited to speak on a panel (as ZM, not TWP, even though that line is blurred) at an event as part of this show's public program. I don't think I would've known about the show without that invite, so I can't say it didn't affect the review; but as always I am letting u kno 4 transparency etc etc our favourable opinions are unable to be purchased etc etc