The Guitar Man is an exhibition by Anna Weyant is open until December, 22 2023, at 9 rue de Castiglione, Paris, at Gagosian. This marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe, following her first solo exhibition, Baby, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, in 2022, also hosted by Gagosian but in New York. In homage to the soft rock band Bread‘s song, “The Guitar Man,” the exhibition showcases new canvases featuring figures and still lifes inspired by classics of American pop culture, including The Addams Family, Clue, Looney Tunes, and Playboy. In this series of paintings, Weyant further develops the dark aesthetic and unsettling undertones that have characterized her work in the past.
The paintings exhibited in Paris are based on the leitmotif of the dollhouse that Weyant has explored since the beginning of her career. In anticipation of The Guitar Man, she has constructed a new atmosphere reminiscent of the iconic Bates family house from Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1960 film Psycho. The New York artist draws inspiration from this structure, using it as a platform to experiment with lighting design. The jewel-like scale of the exhibition space on rue de Castiglione also evokes the claustrophobic atmospheres typical of dollhouses, invoking the childhood sensations that persist into adulthood.
An eerie and unsettling air permeates all of Weyant’s works, whether portraits, figures, or still life compositions. They suggest images that undermine the attempts at composure of subjects caught in moments of awkward self-awareness, emphasizing a mild yet pervasive anxiety and a manipulative influence of invisible, almost directive hands. However, Weyant’s subjects resist the impulse that could lead to a violent reaction, instead opting for a silent and introspective refusal. In her bizarre still lifes, she imparts an eerie quality to everyday objects. In Girl with Candlestick (2023), Weyant depicts a pale blonde figure wrapped in a white sheet while holding a candle. The subject’s smooth, rounded face, with eyes turned upwards, takes on a new form and an unsettling expression thanks to the low lighting. This is a cinematic and theatrical lighting trick that transforms the image into something malevolent or mysterious.
In This Is a Life? (2023), she portrays an image of a silver vase with flowers resting on a wooden windowsill that frames a matte black background – and in which its reflection is visible – creating a doubly artificial effect. The white and yellow flowers in the artwork appear flat and stylized, as if cut from sheets of paper. At the same time, the provocative question contained in the title returns to the top of the composition in bold red and white script. The question reminds us of the 1955 Looney Tunes cartoon that mocks the 1950s-60s American talk show This Is Your Life, but it could be interpreted as mischievously questioning the value of the still life genre or the existence of flowers (or ourselves).
ph. courtesy Timothée Viale