Annette Lemieux, “Twelve”, 2009. Acrylic silkscreen ink on wood panels. Photo: Paul Kasmin Gallery.
NEW YORK, NY.- The cow is both subject and vehicle in Annette Lemieux’s latest foray into the folklore and symbolism of the American farm. Imagery culled from 1950’s livestock books opens itself to multiple interpretations, associating freely with ideas from religion, art history and popular culture. In these new works, golden calves, angelic milkmaids, and holy straw hats playfully invoke the iconography of religious traditions. Together, they form a dialogue that evolves as it travels from piece to piece. For example, in “Mary with Holy Figure”, a young woman appears next to a cow wearing a straw hat. The idea that the hat might constitute a halo led Lemieux to make another work – a gold gilded straw sombrero. These two works were also linked by Lemieux’s discovery that the early etymology of “halo” includes the crop circle created by threshing oxen. The young woman makes a repeat appearance, literally, in “Twenty-Five Hail Marys”, without the straw-hatted cow, silkscreened into a grid of twenty-five that are nearly identical other than the natural variations generated by the printmaking process. This exhibition continues an investigation that began in 2008, when Lemieux created a stand for the Armory Show that moved from art fair to country fair. Playing off of the context of the event, Lemieux’s installation employed such elements as a best-in-show cow, walls made from old barn boards, vernacular signage, and fresh apple pie. In the body of work that followed, images of pigs referenced both George Orwell and the homespun rhetoric of the campaign trail. (…)
Though she’s been called a conceptual artist, “That’s just for lack of a better term,” says Annette Lemieux, professor of the practice of studio arts in the department of visual and environmental studies. Maybe “mixed-media artist” comes closer; think Robert Rauschenberg. Lemieux’s pieces range from Two Vistas, a 17-by-67-foot mural of clouds, to Hey Joe, eight wooden charger rifles grouped in a vertical bouquet with pink carnations stuck in their barrels. Her works tend to be life-sized, like The Great Outdoors (1989), an old black-and-white postcard enlarged into a background vista for an actual Adirondack chair, table, and lamp. “I want to break down the barrier between the viewer and the work, and take you to the actual space and time of the piece,” she explains. “I’m not interested in illusions.” (…)