Have you ever wanted something so badly your desperation became funny?
If crying is to laugh, rhyming is to harmonise. In fact, many of Rosenwald’s drawings do both: sinister puppeteers and comedic scenes are visual puns that create a world of conflicting desires and reactions. It’s just up to us, like the Greek God Janus, to put on the tragedy masks of theatre and join in.
The word slapstick has different signifiers in this show – from commedia dell’arte
to high fashion, the drawings drenched in the candy-coated sinisterism of this all. Social critique threads through Rosenwald’s world, but the joy found in her work are subtle reminders that a little splash of humour goes a long way. In Tongue and cheek, neon spots cover the bottom half of a face, as a tongue seductively licks to the left; in Butt of the Joke – an ambiguous play on being mocked and ridiculed – a pin-the-tail on the donkey is tacked on a buttock, a bow hanging loosely around the woman’s waist. In Rotten Tomatoes, smashed tomatoes tumble in front of theatre curtains (clearly, the review of this play hasn’t gone down well with its audience!). If that doesn’t tickle
your fancy, Nose depicts a Disneyland like pink castle, with a strange upside-down nose as a nail is thrust into the sky by what appears to be a hand. Did you notice the nose is breathing upwards, not downwards? ... “really, breathe in the fresh air!”
The show is as the title suggests – slapstick. The melding act of child-like drawing and surrealist sensibility are united through the simple fact these works are created in pencil. Scribbled in a candy-coloured glamour,
Rosenwald plays and subsumes, while subjecting the bodies in her drawings to a candour of fantasy. By turning the body into an object for consumption, these drawings are not about physicality at all: instead, by interweaving strangeness and the uncanny, the bizarre and unrecognisable, the body becomes a blank canvas.
As in Punchline, motifs are placed upon the body, including iterations of panto-esqe check patterns, where high heels and a birdlike leg and foot all point their toes towards a direction which can only be seen as backwards. Topsy-turvy, upside down, in Slapstick the bizarre and jocular is everywhere. As onlookers, we are invited to inhale and exhale it, letting it animate the gallery around us.
In Los Angeles, the land of nepo-babies, health-consciousness, and the entertainment industry, Slapstick doesn’t abide by these social rules of striving for face value success. No. The drawings are attempts at joy and lightness, moments of absurdity and elation. The self-deprecating tongue and cheek humour of this exhibition is most compelling for its astute, titillating wit. Like any great party, the punchline of the snow globe reminds us, “Wish you weren’t here!”
-- Hatty Nestor