Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012 | 1:18 PM
SPACE presents Land of Plenty, a new series of masterfully executed works by Los Angeles artist Stephanie Mercado. The exhibition includes luminous small gouache paintings on paper, intricately engraved dry point prints, and sensuous oil paintings. The work draws on Mercado’s love of the Romantic aesthetic of Eighteenth century imagery, and combines historical depictions of opulence with contemporary issues concerning displays of wealth and the pursuit of the American Dream. The works’ beauty and their masterful execution wittingly parallel the social injustices of today and those of centuries ago.
Mine is Forever, is one of two large oil paintings in the show, and a stunning homage to Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun’s 1779 portrait of Marie Antoinette. The monarch’s rosy, well-fed complexion glows as much as her blue satin dress. She stands with a golden ship in her elaborate headdress, and a bright red drawstring purse cleverly sporting the initials LXVI a-la Louis Vuitton. The pink rose in the queen’s hand in the original painting was replaced by a tiny golden house, and on the bush remains a single drooping specimen, foreshadowing her demise. The tree in the background has also been stripped of most of its foliage, and a little path leads beyond the horizon, further accentuating the bleak setting.
In one of the small gouaches on paper, Mercado has painted a map of the Americas a glowing gold, reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts. Spectral forms of conquistadors and their ghost ship float in the ocean waters all around. Did they lose their lives trying to reach the golden shores of the promised land, or – like King Midas- meet their doom wishing to have it all?
The variety of work demonstrates the range of Mercado’s artistic talents – both technical and conceptual. The humor and playfulness, which appear throughout her work, don’t dilute – but rather underscore the gravity of the issues she tackles. The social and economic inequities that span centuries, if not millennia; the greed and the pursuit of material goals and the price some of us are willing to pay for their attainment – all resonate with us particularly loudly today. And we are reminded that Art plays a pivotal role in bringing awareness to these issues, as well as rallying us to combat them.
The opening reception will be on January 28, 2012 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The gallery is located at 1506 Mission Street, South Pasadena. For more information visit, www.spaceartscenter.com or call (626) 441-4788.