In "Second Nature," Chloe Wise unveils a series of portraits and still-lives she painted while in quarantine. Presented online by Almine Rech, the show embraces intimate subject matter, rendered in a straightforward, lucid manner—a break from Wise's past focus on large-scale compositions, rife with symbolism—as much so a testament to the understated power of subjective observation in this fraught moment.
Below, Wise considers the genesis of these works:
After what felt like an eternity of quarantine-fueled reflection and ruminative stasis—much of it spent baking, fearfully reading the news, and drawing friends' faces via FaceTime—I finally started painting again by early summer. I ultimately completed a series of small, intimate works with no coherent theme, void of the ambition I had previously come to expect from myself in terms of scale and compositional complexity. I found it liberating, that is, painting just for fun—and discovering the nomadic versatility my tiny easel provided.
Spending lockdown in a house out east on Long Island, I looked to my surroundings for other subjects: friends illuminated by the sunset, a glass of water near my bedside, and my gorgeous Siamese children, Pluto and Hans [pictured].
Given the macro-level injustice and outrage flowing out from the public sphere on a daily basis in this year of our lord 2020, I found a sense of relief in the relative, micro-dimensions of these paintings, as well as in taking a decidedly more introspective approach in choosing what to depict.
I want and expect art to stand up to the political, to speak truth to power, and to defamiliarize the familiar—but I also want to allow for the personal, the mundane, the banal, and the intimate to maintain a role of importance.
Chloe Wise, Hans and Pluto, 2020. Oil on canvas, 10 x 10 x 1 1/2 inches.