What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

February 20, 2020

Whitney Bedford
Reflections on the Anthropocene
Vielmetter Los Angeles
January 11 - February 22, 2020

Whitney Bedford

Whitney Bedford's exhibition Reflections on the Anthropocene consists of a series of new paintings entitled Veduta. In each work, Bedford appropriates and reinterprets landscapes by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, John Constable, Milton Avery, Edvard Munch, Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Singer Sargent, presenting them as backgrounds, seen through a window or interior space. Bedford plays with foreground background relationships in these works— an empty stage or room often separates the distant landscape from monochromatic and close-up depictions of plant-life, which are rendered in a more illustrative style.

In Veduta, (Friedrich/White Rainbow) (all works 2019) Bedford begins with Caspar David Friedrich’s Landscape with Rainbow (c. 1810), retaining the integrity of his green and yellow hues and sweeping white rainbow that arcs across the composition. She interrupts the expansive view by placing a neon yellow-green cactus-like plant in the foreground, at the edge of a turquoise platform. The yellow lines of this architectural enclosure bisect the sweep of the rainbow, calling attention to the relationship between past and present as well as the natural and man-made landscape.

Most of the paintings follow a similar formula— Bedford represents a historical painting, inscribes it within a viewing box, then interrupts the view with an image of plant life painted in a contrasting style. In Veduta, (For Turner), she captures the atmospheric and ephemeral sweep of color along the horizon line, bisecting this peaceful vista with a line drawing of prickly cacti, growing from a light brown floor that defines an interior space. Veduta (Avery Landscape), 2019 depicts a more expressionistic landscape with neon green and pink trees emerging from a snow-filled ground. An isolated light-pink tree occupies the foreground emerging from the bottom of the canvas. This lone-tree is set against a green plane that becomes the floor of a glassed in space. The Avery inspired landscape is seen through these imagined windows. Veduta (Munch), presents a distant landscape painted in Munch’s loose and expressive style as if viewed from adjacent windows. Again, Bedford juxtaposes the appropriated image with contemporary depictions of native trees depicted in a contrasting style.

In these works, Bedford subverts landscapes created by noted male painters, separating past and present via a platform or stage so they are viewed from the inside looking out. She includes the geometry of the imagined space further distancing her view and theirs. The paintings reference the shifting interpretations of the sublime as well as issues of climate change. These amalgamations of myriad styles and genres of landscape painting are at once, imaginative, playful and intellectual.

Note: A version of this review was first published in Visual Art Source, January 24, 2020.