Night Gallery is thrilled to present Egg and Dart, an exhibition of new fresco paintings by Anna Rosen. Rosen was included in Night Gallery’s first-ever exhibition, Private Life, in 2010, and this will be her second solo exhibition with the gallery.
Anna Rosen’s frescoes build up a symbolic order through a type of painterly wordplay. Her paintings find delight in disguise: walls, vessels, frames, and costumes recur throughout these works, evoking containment, concealment, and transformation. These tropes suggest unseen (perhaps unseeable) truths, carried into being by illusory exteriors – but the exteriors are all we see. Some of these details, in particular the nineteenth-century garments, create an experience of uncanny time travel for the viewer. Are we witnessing a scene from another time, or a reenactment? Rosen’s new work builds up imagery in layered constructions that repeatedly reorient the picture plane, offering nothing but the false face. Painted onto limestone surfaces, which the artist lays like cement, the works become facades of facades, finding a new layer of veneer behind every surface.
The notion of the binary is integral to Rosen’s play of symbols. The exhibition takes its title from a style of ornamental motif found in architectural mouldings that can be found through history, through to buildings through the present day. Though not overtly representational, the egg-and-dart design takes its name from respective symbols of birth and death, rendered in iconographic simplicity. Implanted within architectural embellishments, these adornments stealthily inscribe structures with the primary forces of life, presented as an abstracted repeating pattern. Rosen’s new body of work takes inspiration from this innocuous leitmotif of humanity, contemplating its perplexing status somewhere between profundity and frivolity, being and void.
Rosen’s palate also speaks to polarity, working within the limitation of four colors – red, blue, yellow, and green – each one embodying an essential extreme. Painting unmixed pigment directly onto the surfaces of each fresco with only water as a binder, the works operate within terms of chromatic antipodes, opposites sharing the same composition. However, Rosen’s work playfully incorporates passages of white limestone on the top surfaces of her compositions, reminding the viewer of another binary, between substance and absence.
Rosen’s works are painted paradoxes, deceptively spirited compositions that overlap embellishments toward a contemplation of meaning. Setting up the tension between adornment and essence, Rosen reframes decoration as a site of philosophical inquiry. Her symbols are, on the one hand, self-negating, sites of falsity and diversion; on the other, they are sites of creation, enshrining and carrying forward a human story. Like the egg and the dart, Rosen’s work makes graphic the rhythmic dissonance of life’s primal forces.
Anna Rosen (b. 1984, Arlington, Virginia) received her M.F.A. in 2010 from Columbia University. In addition to Night Gallery, Rosen has had solo exhibitions at Kerry Schuss, New York. Her work has been included in recent exhibitions at Page (NYC), Lyles & King, Murray Guy, Cleopatra’s, American Medium, Malraux's Place, and Derek Eller Gallery in New York; The Gallery @ Michael's, Los Angeles; and at Silberkuppe, Berlin. She lives and works in Los Angeles.