Susan Bee Interview
Painting & film noir, masks, women behind bars, collage, fairy tales, & disaster
Susan Bee interviewed by Tom Winchester at Sovereign Nation
Susan Bee‘s Recalculating at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn examines all of art history through a postmodern lens: as if its most epic battles were appropriated then compressed onto a canvas in a style that is similar to the way that David Salle, Nicole Eisenman, and Cindy Sherman have created their compositions. Without losing her style to a sea of reproductions, Bee maintains Recalculating as an exhibition of paintings that makes its two distinct themes battle each other in order to expose their tenuous theoretical commonalities. On the surface ironic fairy tales of domestic disputes and shattered windows build a film noir representative of today’s sobered ideals. Below the surface is a painterly, Bauhaus-inspired formal deconstruction that sometimes hides beneath objects that are fully rendered. The paintings’ formal tension reflects their dissonant narratives, creating a universality that art aspires to.
Susan Bee: The first series of paintings are stills from film noirs, mostly black-and-whites that I’ve made in color. They’re arranged in an abstract narrative with recurring characters like the man with the hat and the blonde woman, driving, windows, guns – there’s a lot of hints of violence in the film noirs. They usually end badly.
Tom Winchester: They remind me of your last show of paintings, which depicted disasters.
Bee: This show has more to do with personal disasters, with actual characters having them, but the situations could go either way; he either loves her, or he’s about to kill her. Some of them reference certain films, like one is from Gun Crazy, another is from Detour, and one is from a woman-behind-bars flick, but they actually go beyond the films. I’ve added things like masks, hats, and backgrounds, which aren’t in the originals. And some of them I tried to pull into abstractions.
The other paintings in the show have to do with either landscape or religious imagery, like the Renaissance and Medieval works in the Lehman Wing at the Met, which refer more to my earlier work.