Allison Sommers’ “Schlaraffenland” at Thinkspace
May 5th, 2010 by admin
With their strange, corpulent bodies and vague expressions, the creatures that inhabit Allison Sommer’s work are hard to describe. Existing in a fantasy world that recalls the atmosphere of vintage children’s illustrations at their most brilliant and bizarre (think Grimm’s Fairy Tales in their original, gory glory), these eerie characters activate the imagination on a number of unique levels. Her figures are monstrous in their cuteness, dangerous in their attractiveness. Like something out of the imagination of Guillermo del Toro at his finest, they have a double-edged appeal, at once beautiful and disturbing. Even the boar-headed centaur wheeling (literally, on a contraption well-suited from your Aunt’s elderly dachshund) willy-nilly through a field, netting winged weiners, has a sort of grotesque nobility to him. The works in Sommer’s new collection manage to be funny, touching, perplexing and stupendously beautiful all at once.
Sommers’ upcoming show, opening this Friday at Thinkspace’s new location in Culver City, explores the deepest recesses of the fabled Schlaraffenland, or “land of milk and honey.” Dealing with themes of gluttony, consumption and unselfconscious abandon, Sommers’ impressive body of work, which includes nearly 50 new works in paint, illustration and sculpture, offers a Bosch-like cornucopia of surreal, corporeal compositions. Her work has the power to make the viewer exceedingly uncomfortable, in that most delightful of ways, and with that raw, visceral response she makes a tiny wound into which her commentary on consumption can be sewed. Like Will Cotton, but with significantly more bite, Sommers’ uses pretty to meditate on ugly.
While all of the characters in Sommers’ Schlaraffenland seem to be engaged in varying forms of consumption and transgression, the willingness of their participation is suspect in certain scenes. Several of the compositions have sinister overtones of malicious coercion, and it is this juxtaposition that gives Sommers’ work its subversive power. Certainly one of the most imaginative of the new generation of contemporary painters, and with a deftness of execution to match, a trip to Sommers’ “Schlaraffenland” will be a great way to kick off this summer’s art season.