Night Gallery is thrilled to announce Rubedo, an exhibition of new paintings by Shannon Cartier Lucy. This is the artist’s first solo show at the gallery.
Strike a match in the dark. Brightness obscures color from the flame, but your fingers are now illuminated under a red glow. Red signals the appearance of light, a passage out of its absence. Alchemists discerned the color’s metamorphic capacities when they adopted rubedo, Latin for “redness,” as a term for the final stage of the magnum opus. Jung and his acolytes later embraced the word to describe the culminating step of psychological development, in which extreme adversity leads to the actualization of a “true self.” The previous phases of immense hardship now end and manifest a new personality; rubedo is the second birth and the good death.
Shannon Cartier Lucy’s paintings are similarly wrought of apparent tension and transformation, unsettling viewers without distancing them and remaining, ultimately, committed to beauty. She brings us right to the threshold of understanding, but then it passes like clouds overhead. In her Night Gallery debut, the artist embarks on a highly contemporary exploration of personal realization that overflows with narrative potential, somewhere between total ruin and absurdist humor.
Red unifies Cartier Lucy’s Rubedo. Otherwise washed-out palettes and banal domestic scenes are brought to life by the color, its presence at once marking the arrival of self and a departure from what it always was. Aptly, Cartier Lucy here employs red’s common symbolism—heat, feverishness, intensity—to relate to the empowering process of aging as a woman. To become older is its own kind of psycho-spiritual breakthrough, a liberating reminder of mortality.
A woman undresses. She nonchalantly pulls off her skirt, which happens to be on fire. Another figure holds a brick, intentions unclear: if she throws it, the object brings destruction. If she lays it, she brings forth something new. Fingers circle the rim of a glass containing a Crayola marker, the familiar iconography interrupting the uncanniness of the other works on view. Elsewhere, fire springs from bent hands. What seems worse than the experience of pain is to represent it with preciousness or overt sentimentality.
The works in Rubedo reflect the surreal nature of self-examination, bending figuration into a generously open visual language. Cartier Lucy is interested in how asking who am I? invokes the difference between an intellectual understanding of suffering, and the living of it that integrates a person into the fullest version of themselves. The “real” dwells within such a question, where devastation gives way to revelation.
Shannon Cartier Lucy (b. 1977, Nashville, TN) has had recent solo exhibitions at Massimo de Carlo, Milan and Hong Kong; Lubov, New York; Soft Opening, London; Galerie Hussenot, Paris; de boer, Los Angeles; and Nina Johnson Gallery, Miami. Her work has been written about in Cultured, Forbes, Artforum, Vulture, and Artspace, among others. She is the 2019 recipient of an Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant. Cartier Lucy lives and works in Nashville.