(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – On view as of Wednesday, February 8, 2012, Anna Betbeze debuts four new paintings in her first solo museum exhibition in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center mezzanine gallery. Betbeze’s innovative work – described by Suzanne Hudson in Artforum as “exquisitely grotesque” – uses Greek Flokati carpets as a ground for a mix of pigments that range from brilliant to muddy. Betbeze aggressively cuts, tears, stains, and burns the large wooly paintings before machine-washing them. She paints the sheep’s wool with watercolor and acid-based textile dyes using brushes, buckets, and even her hands, and often leaves on the acid dyes for long periods of time, allowing them to scorch the material. The resulting holes can give the work lacelike patterns or leave them looking like they are on the cusp of complete disintegration. The result is dynamic compositions with color-soaked forms, furry tufts of material, and the negative space of the white wall behind.
Hung from simple nails, the transformed rugs sag and drape under the force of gravity, coming to rest gently on the floor. Conjuring associations as diverse as oriental carpets, the Minimalist felt sculptures of Robert Morris, and 1970s-era woven wall hangings, these layered works offer a fresh take on abstract painting. Writing in Modern Painters, Meghan Dailey described the works as “radical relief-like paintings that traverse the expanded field with abandon.” In the artist’s words, her works are “sites for color and material transgressions.”
The works made for MASS MoCA – Ebb, Veil, Mud, and Chamber – are inspired by an array of natural forms including mold, moss, foliage, fungus, rust, and rot. The new series takes off from the suite of works titled Moss Garden (a reference to Michel Foucault, who lectured that “the garden is a rug onto which the whole world comes to enact its symbolic perfection, and the rug is a sort of garden that can move across space.”), which the artist exhibited in her first solo exhibition in New York at the Kate Werble Gallery in 2011.
Anna Betbeze was born in Mobile, Alabama. She received her BFA from the University of Georgia in 2003 and her MFA from Yale University in 2006. Betbeze has been a lecturer at the Yale School of Art since 2009. In 2011 her work was included in Unpainted Paintings curated by Alison Gingeras for Luxembourg & Dayan and in Painting Expanded at Tanya Bonakdar, New York.
In the summer of 2010, Betbeze participated in group exhibitions at Ramiken Crucible, New York, and Horton Gallery, Berlin, Germany. She has also shown at Rachel Uffner Gallery, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Swing Space, and PPOW Gallery in New York. The artist lives and works in New York.
MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) is one of the largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country and is located in North Adams, Mass., on a restored 19th-century factory campus. MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 11 – 5 every day except Tuesdays. Gallery admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students, $5 for children 6 – 16, and free for children 5 and under. Members admitted free year-round. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 or visit MASS MoCA.