Jennie Ottinger flew the coop from her small town, Catholic upbringing to venture to sunny California to get a taste of sweet freedom.
Except, upon arriving in the golden state, Ottinger immediately joined a sorority. Her newest exhibition, entitled "Members Only," revolves around the group mentality of exclusivity and uniformity, and their eery ability to govern children and adults alike.
Girl scouts, religious congregations, equestrian teams and family reunions coexist in Ottinger's painted world, where icy glares and uneasy looks govern children and adults with equal effectiveness. Cutesy uniforms and stuffy formalwear emanate an eerie, cult-like feeling when juxtaposed with Ottinger's signature melting faces.
Ottinger has a knack for depicting childhood traumas with the irrational, all-encompassing horror that reflects the true childhood experience, when being picked last on a sports team was enough to make you sick to your stomach.
In her previous, equally adorable and terrifying exhibition, "What To Do With Your Orphan: A Manual," Ottinger tackled the romanticized lore of the poor little orphan with a motley selection of dripping faces and blot-like mouths. Once again in "Members Only," Ottinger splits open the myth of childhood bliss to reveal the constant anxiety, self-loathing and cruelty that comes with youth.
Sitting in a group
As far as contemporary painters go, Ottinger is one of our favorites. Her impasto memories trap visceral, suppressed feelings of pain, embarrassment and perhaps a hint of knowing guilt in her inundating layers of paint. Her canvases are as hilarious as they are horrific, all without any pretension or much explanation. Even Francis Bacon's nude-wolf hybrids might shudder in the face of one of Ottinger's ruthless girl scout captains.
"Members Only" is on view at Johansson Projects in Oakland until September 19. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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