July 20-August 31, 2022
Alexander Berggruen is pleased to present Freya Douglas-Morris, Tom Howse, Talia Levitt. This exhibition opened Wednesday, July 20, 2022 with a reception from 5-7 pm at the gallery (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3, New York, NY).
Constructing realities shaped by personal and collective nostalgia, Freya Douglas-Morris, Tom Howse, and Talia Levitt build tender worlds where surprises await a close observer. Though each artist has a distinct painterly aesthetic and focus, all three reveal richly-hued perspectives that herald sincere investigations of the human experience.
Freya Douglas-Morris depicts jewel-toned environments, inspired by remembered and imagined spaces. In Douglas-Morris’s words, the scenes she paints are “of the believable and also of the artificial, the staged, the planned and nudged into position.” Through varying brushstrokes and painting applications, the artist depicts light, mountains, water, sky, and foliage that appear to vibrate and shimmer. The artist’s insistence on including the sun in this body of work reflects not only her inquiry into light to charge her scenes with a radiant luminescence, but also into light’s rhythmic nature. As the sun rises on another day, is caught midday, or sinks behind the earth, a viewer is reminded of both the fleeting nature of light and of its cyclical return. In Douglas-Morris’s 2022 Afternoon reading, a solitary figure lounges in an idyllic, golden landscape; yet, instead of marveling at nature’s beauty, this figure is preoccupied with an open book featuring reproductions of work by Henri Matisse. As this figure and any viewer of the artist’s work find themselves focusing on a painting instead of on the tangible, outside world, Douglas-Morris encourages celebration of both nature and painting.
Tom Howse’s delightful bizarreries invite viewers into destabilized realities within homely interiors furnished with ornate wooden furniture and an overabundance of potted plants. Half-smiling figures parade alongside snails and dogs, ducks “dream”, and frogs sit on heads or float in the sky. However, their innocent faces and gestures may, at first, conceal more unsettling energies. That which is recognizable is recast, creating a sense of dream-like familiarity: what at once may appear to be a rug morphs into a space beneath the floors; once a painting or window, then a miniature universe on a wall. In Howse’s The Lovely, Lovely People Are Here, And They Say Hello, there are no apparent “life-sized” figures in the main room. Considering this absence, are the figures in the framed rectangle on the top right register of the canvas and the figures beneath the floor or trapped in the rug the ones who eponymously “say hello”? Speaking about these moments, Howse stated: “These images within images undermine the stability of reason and can gently cause the viewer to question the world of this image. Like a stage set, or a video game world, which is limited and self contained, it’s the moment when Truman hits the back wall.” Yet, Howse is also driven to honor life, as evidenced by the pigeon in the center of In The Hurricane of Content. Here, the artist refigures the hierarchy of living beings, raising an often considered humble pigeon to the center stage. Straddling realities and temperaments, Howse affectionately guides the viewer with lovable figures and humor to raise queries about quotidian life.
Talia Levitt paints optical illusions of quilts composed of woven, layered, and superimposed images and patterns from diverse sources ranging from Dutch still life, neo-impressionist, and Pattern and Decoration paintings to the artist’s own family archive. Creating these trompe l’oeil paintings with surfaces that resemble textiles both venerates and diverges from her family’s and her own background in sewing. By painting rather than weaving these quilts, Levitt is able to repeat imagery, embed symbolism in found patterns, immortalize family objects without altering them, and embed narrative silhouettes into the work. Items relating to Levitt’s process—including paint brushes, a staple gun, and a tube of paint—are painted to appear overlaid on the apparent weave as a cheeky reminder that these works are indeed paintings. Her approach involves first painting the varying patchwork of images and pattern, she then scrapes a grid into the surface with a knife and a ruler to mimic distinct fabrics and degrees of wear. Once scored, Levitt pipes paint out of the corner of a plastic bag to imply stitching. The artist’s resulting paintings become self portraits as she sources imagery from her life and inspirations and as she intertwines herself in the suggested fabric through reproductions of her own body. Her face and eyes are frequently in the center of her canvases—always returning the gaze of a viewer—and a female form sometimes glows atop the weave. Speaking about her work, Levitt stated: “I think of my paintings much like schmattas, or rags, embedded with the history of their wearer. They are at once distressed, sensitively labored self portraits, narrating my lived experience, but also address the lineage which makes this work possible.”
The exhibition’s preview is available upon request. For all inquiries, please contact the gallery at email@example.com.
Freya Douglas-Morris (b. 1980, London, United Kingdom) received a BA in fine arts from Brighton University, Brighton, UK and an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art, London, UK. Her work has been featured at galleries and museums including Alexander Berggruen, NY; Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh, UK; FreshStart, Los Angeles, CA; HDM Gallery, Shenzhen, CN; The Manchester Contemporary, Manchester UK; Saatchi Gallery, London, UK; Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall, UK; CS Hospiz Rennweg, Vienna, AT; Arcade Fine Arts, London UK; Studiolo Project, Milan, IT; Yellow Gallery & Transition Gallery, Varese, IT; Dallas Contemporary Museum, Dallas, TX; and Liverpool Biennial, UK. The artist lives and works in London, UK.
Tom Howse (b. 1988, Chester, UK) received a BA from Wimbledon College of Art, London, UK in 2011. His work has been exhibited at Linseed Projects, Shanghai, CN; Lychee One Gallery, London, UK; Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger, NO; Rod Barton Gallery, London, UK; Tanja Pol Galerie, Munich, DE; Frestonian Gallery, London, UK; Ratskeller Galerie, Berlin, DE; PM/AM Gallery, London, UK; Saatchi Gallery, London, UK; Koppe Astner, London, UK; Galleri Kant, Copenhagen, DK; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK; Attercliffe TM, Sheffield, UK; J Hammond Projects, London, UK; CO2 Gallery, Rome, IT; and Londonewcastle Project Space, London, UK. Howse lives and works in London, UK.
Talia Levitt (b. 1989, Brooklyn, NY) received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI in 2011 and an MFA from CUNY Hunter, New York, NY in 2019. Levitt also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, was a New York Foundation of the Arts Painting Fellow, and a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Painting Fellow, and received a Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant. Her work has been exhibited at Carl Kostyal, Milan, IT; Bill Brady Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Morgan Lehman, New York, NY; ATM Gallery, New York, NY; Frieze NY with Francois Ghebaly; Fredericks & Freiser, New York, NY; and Hesse Flatow, New York, NY. Levitt lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
On the occasion of our exhibition Freya Douglas-Morris, Tom Howse, Talia Levitt (July 20-August 31, 2022), we spoke with the artists about their work.