Ivy Haldeman’s body of new paintings, on view currently at Downs and Ross, have a distinctly playful quality, poetic and energetic while referencing surrealist twists on the everyday. The current show, on now through October 21st, presents itself as a playful update on prior work, filling the canvas with the same colorful, enthusiastic energy.
Haldeman fixates on a personified hot dog motif, a character she previously developed for a show of paintings in 2015, painting this New York snack engulfed in a downy bun and emboldened with a vivid, fleshy palette of pinks, ruddy browns, and tans. However whereas 2015 portraits featured scenes of banal repose, at Downs and Ross, Haldeman reveals a more sexualized, historically cognizant hot dog, one that exudes a sense of maturity and elegance.
Take Colossus, Ankles Cross, Hand Hooks Heel, Finger Tips Press Bun (2018). At the center of this massive canvas is a hand – familiar from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam – hooked onto the heel of a nude pump by the index finger. Around this centralized motif are a pair of legs, the fingertips of a second hand, a set of eyelashes, and the bottom of a hot dog peeking out from its bun. This figure is laying face-down on a bed, with legs kicked up in coquettish relaxation. Were her face not turned towards her heels, the hot dog would extend outwards towards the viewer’s position, confronting guests as soon as they walked in on her. For now, she’s blissfully unaware of our voyeurism.
Next to Colossus, Haldeman has attempted something quite different — Hand, Index Linger Back (2018) is a detail excerpted from a painting much like Colossus. Using the same palette, Haldeman paints a single human hand performing a dance along the canvas floor. The hand mimics the hands that Haldeman’s franks have, and while this painting is significantly smaller than Colossus, its hand is of like scale. Thus, in the same way that Haldeman plays with borders and cropping in Colossus, Hand further emphasizes an exploration of image editing and perspective.
The relationship between images exemplified in the pairing of Colossus and Hand continues throughout Haldeman’s show, with like motifs cropped and sized according to surrounding paintings to give the perception that all of these paintings are in conversation with one another. Exacerbating this exploration are Haldeman’s paintings of empty skirt suits, which couple up within paintings to blatantly reference painting-to-painting relationships.
Through all three symbols in her paintings on view (hot dogs, hands, and suits), Haldeman overtly depicts the female body while withholding any true representation of such. She mines our ability to register femininity through caricatured suggestion, a sort of logical proof of mis-representation. Perhaps Haldemann is developing a metaphor for the absence of women in female portraiture, as compared to the very real – if also comical – presence of femininity in her portraits of non-women. Haldeman’s retort to the canon eschews rigorous formalism, conceptualism, and abstraction alike in favor instead of a narrative concerned more with semiotics than masterpiece-ness. Regardless of whether femme-a-femme portraiture as a means to challenge art historical traditions is a largely overwrought genre today, in renouncing the ego in her work, Haldeman has tapped into a lovely simplicity.
— S. Parnon
Ivy Haldman at Downs and Ross [Exhibition Site]