POWERPLAY, Rae Klein’s third solo exhibition with Nicodim and her first in New York, is a Jungian commentary on the ever-evolving battle royale between man and nature from a feminine perspective. With this body of work, Klein distills her surrealist vocabulary down to a few familiar objects largely stripped of context and presented with a haunting (and often threatening) serenity.
While she typically depicts her subjects as floating in the sky or over monochromatic planes, her protagonists are not without a common thread—each composition contains at least passing reference to mankind’s attempts to assert its mastery over the feral world. Her airplanes are metal tubes that subvert our species’ inability to fly, her windows drive a wedge between us and the elements, her candelabras keep our nights illuminated while the sun is asleep, her table settings ensure that we will never have to eat with our hands, her horses and dogs have been bred for generations to highlight traits beneficial to their masters. Her renderings are washed-out, and while not sepia-toned in hue, the brushwork lends the airy feel of nostalgia and subtly suggests that the ideologies contained within are weathered and dated.
Three gargantuan diptychs centerpiece the exhibition. In Power Play, 2023, two disembodied female hairdos hover within a black void, while a revolver, two dogs, and two commercial jetliners float where the faces should be. Women and Dogs, 2023, continues this motif, only this time the hairpieces are suspended in a skyscape with two English Pointers pointing at one another in the foreground, perhaps to pass blame for their current purgatory. Little Scheme, 2023, is a banquet in the clouds without a table, its glasses empty, the feast yet to arrive. Each piece serves as a stage set of sorts, the objects within them akin to Chekhov’s gun, loaded with some impending, yet-to-be-defined action or chaos.Their monumental scale inherently implies that whatever is to come, if it ever comes, it will be consequential.
POWERPLAY is an exhibition of pregnant pauses, silences sticky with the threat of future storms. While man has exploited loopholes in the natural order in an attempt to replace God with his own image, Klein’s paintings suggest that this line of existence is frail and tenuous at best. A reckoning is pending, if not imminent.
Rae Klein (b. 1995) lives and works in Michigan. She graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2017 with a BFA in Painting. Exhibitions include POWERPLAY, Nicodim, New York (2023, solo, forthcoming); The Descendants, curated by Micki Meng, Melanie Ouyang Lum, Kevin Poon, K11 Musea, Hong Kong (2023); Galeria Nicodim, Bucharest: 10 Years, Galeria Nicodim, Bucharest (2023); Last Night I Dreamt I Was Running, Galeria Nicodim, Bucharest (2023, solo); DISEMBODIED, curated by Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, Nicodim, New York (2023); LOW VOICE OUT LOUD, Nicodim, Los Angeles (2022, solo); The Comfort in Calamity, Jessica Silverman, San Francisco (2022, solo); BODYLAND, curated by Lauren Taschen, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (2022); YOU ME ME YOU, curated by Rachel Keller, Nicodim, Los Angeles (2022); End of Eden, Galerie Wolfsen, Aalborg (2022); Todo es de Color, The Curator’s Room, Amsterdam (2022); Paper., BEERS London (2022); Waiting in the Field, The Valley, Taos, New Mexico (2021, solo); I Have My Eye On You, Everyday Gallery, Antwerp (2021); and When Shit Hits The Fan Again, Guts Gallery, London (2021).