ARTS & CULTURE
09/18/2013 08:28 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2013

Natalie Frank's 'The Scene Of A Disappearance' Will Make Your Home Life Seem Normal

If you thought Manet's "Olympia" was confrontational -- wait until you see Natalie Frank's reclining nude, a bound and bulging cyclops whose blatantly painted anatomy makes her no less real, no less threatening.

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Portrait in Interior with Window, 108 x 76 inches, Oil, enamel, collage on board, 2013

Although you may find Frank's newest series of paintings and drawings terrifying, she finds them hilarious. "I am in the studio cracking up all by myself," the painter explained, gesturing to a rather illogical swath of green that, she laughed, makes little spacial sense.

The works, it's true, are pretty funny, in a way that simultaneously elicits inexplicable jolts of laughter and a more sinister nervous giggle. Part of Frank's humor stems from goofy faces and absurd scenarios -- campy family folktales that melt into horror stories. A couple mid-make-out, for example, at first resembles your obnoxious next-door neighbors engaged in too much PDA, before morphing into a pair of piggish ghosts fading into their living room decor.

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Couple, 22 x 30 inches, Gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 2013

However, much of Frank's artistic sense of humor operates on another level, one completely separate from narrative, and almost impossible to describe. The abrupt way a hand -- seemingly so trustworthy-- at once evaporates into an ambiguous field of pigment. Or the way a neon streak will casually erupt through an otherwise night-colored scene. We didn't know it was possible to tell jokes with color and brushstroke alone -- and yet certain patches of paint are surely visual punchlines.

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Beast on Kitchen Counter, 22 x 30 inches, Gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 2013

Frank's previous solo exhibition depicted an eroticized haunted house, where ghostly exorcisms and monstrous sexual encounters revealed themselves through slow-dripping paint. Her newest show, entitled "The Scene of a Disappearance," invites viewers into a more personal domain, alluding to a less fantastical, albeit just as warped, depiction of home life. As her subject matter becomes (debatably) less strange, her style continues to dissolve into uncanny abstraction, her coagulated family portraits decaying before your very eyes.

Many of Frank's characters are inspired by her family members and friends, yet limbs wiggle loose from their owners and eyes droop out from their sockets; these are no traditional familial homages. Frank's aesthetic inclinations can possibly be traced back to her ancestry as well: her mother once worked in a sex change clinic, her father is a doctor. Somehow these occupations seem significant when considering Frank's works, which often revolve around a moment of alchemy or point of transition -- somewhere between a miraculous birth and a botched surgery.

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Man Woman Child, 22 x 30 inches, Gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 2013

In "The Scene of a Disappearance," Frank experiments with surfaces, frames, doors and windows, adding bulk and intrigue to her potentially possessed canvases. Many of the paintings incorporate Frank's dissected old paintings, scrapped for parts, chopped up and stuck onto the current canvas. Some parts are painted over while portions of the originals peek through. Frank's past works hover beneath the surface of her present creations, sometimes manifesting themselves with a ghostly presence.

Other pieces incorporate unusually shaped frames or doors that open and close. Figures ooze out of their prescribed frames, prompting the viewer to wonder what is cut off when a painted world is captured in a neat frame. The repetition of these architectural forms not only adds an additional physical dimension to the works, but a conceptual one as well, giving shape to the already prevalent themes of privacy, intimacy, boundaries and the ability to drip beyond them. You're not just looking at a painting. You're peeking through a window or a half-opened door, and often you're not the only one.

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Portrait in Interior with Window, 108 x 76 inches, Oil, enamel, collage on board, 2013

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Portrait (pink necklace), 21 x 27 inches, Oil, enamel, collage on board, 2013

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Portrait in the Landscape (blue)

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Portrait II in the Landscape, 19.5 x 25.5 inches, Oil and enamel on board with wood siding, 2013

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Screen Door

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Screen Door, 54 x 38 inches, Oil, enamel, collage on board with screen door, 2013

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Two Animals in the Forest, 22.5 x 30 inches, Pigment and gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 2012

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Woman, 54 x 76 inches, Oil, enamel, collage on board, 2013

Natalie Frank's "The Scene of a Disappearance" runs from October 19 until November 16, 2013 at ACME. in Los Angeles.

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