Natalie Frank's gross-out dramatics involve bulging eyes, muddled paint, and violent smears across the canvas. The powerhouse young painter has acquired at 32 years old what most long for in a lifetime: a definitive style and a solo Chelsea gallery show. Frank's newest exhibition, "The Governed and the Governors," provides a funhouse mirror's eye view of feminine rituals, just in time for Halloween.
Frank saddles the line between figuration and abstraction, with mixed results. In "One, Two," it looks both as if a couple is performing a sexual act and a post-human form is emerging from a corpse. Frank's female protagonists constantly morph between criminal and victim, keeping the slow but endless momentum of the works in motion. Whether they are predator or prey remains unknown, or better still, constantly shifting, but the women are the agents of Frank's transfiguration carnival.
Frank's paintings channel the masters of the grotesque, combining Francis Bacon's undefined species, Lucian Freud's fear of flesh and Francisco Goya's horrific eyeballs. And yet there is a softness to Frank's work that escapes her predecessors, perhaps due to the joy with which bright colors streak across her canvass, or the cartoon-vision that occasional erupts out of a realistic representation.
While this month you will be seeing a fair share of ghosts, few will be like Frank's: opaque, heavy and dripping. Perhaps most terrifying of all are her small-scale portraits, which make you wonder if it's possible for a human being to actually be smudged. You can see her characters' fear of themselves in their eyes, as their multicolored flesh drips like slow cooked meet falling off the bone.
Natalie Frank's "The Governed and the Governors" will show at Fredericks & Freiser Gallery until November 3, 2012. In the meantime, check out a slideshow of the works below. (With the lights on! They get weird!)