Total Catastrophe Living, a show of entirely new large-scale paintings by Rainen Knecht, opens November 19 and runs through December 17, 2022 at Melanie Flood Projects.
Knecht’s experience as a new mother in a fast fading, horribly damaged, and amazingly beautiful earth is reflected in these new works. The show’s title, a play on the title of a mindfulness epic called “Full Catastrophe Living” as well as Martha Stewart’s namesake “Living,” reflects this mix of dread and delight. These paintings, while not precisely a handbook to improved living, delve into the dark humor that Knecht relies on in her quest for parenting expertise, as well as the melancholy that the inevitable, often constant “failures” inspire. The characters in this series alternate between self-portraits and abstracted, stylized forms. Knecht has stated that the elements reflect her interest in epic creatures such as giantesses and ogresses in various folk traditions, as well as pop cultural references such as Lowly Worm (of Richard Scarry book fame) or Fox Motocross gear. Animals proliferate, appearing to procreate almost literally within the picture, as the mice in Knecht’s Cherry Hell-RIdes her Chariot, 2022 do. However, the works begin with the personal, frequently based on specific incidents from the artist’s life or the world she inhabits. In her inimitable technique, she transforms private moments between mother and kid, or in one case, motorcyclists, often infusing the intimate with an electric intensity.
The works here resemble early Renaissance frescoes by Piero della Francesca and Filippo Lippi, as well as multi-paneled Northern Renaissance altarpieces in form and construction. The figurines converse with artists ranging from Fragonard to Art Spiegelman, existing somewhere between depicted beauty and Garbage Pail Kid putrescence. Figures have skin flapping behind them, leaking milk in seemingly painless ribbons while being scratched and squeezed. These selections are unmistakably body horror, and Knecht’s passion in fairy tales is complemented by a strong interest in horror. Set in a contemporary art historical context among pieces by Joan Brown, Elizabeth Murray, and Dana Schutz, as well as poets and authors such as Alice Notely, Diane di Prima, and Rivka Galchen.
Rainen Knecht (b. 1982) holds a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her exhibition history includes solo and two-person exhibitions at Fourteen30 Contemporary, Portland, Oregon; SITUATIONS, New York, New York; and CAPITAL, San Francisco, California, as well as recent group exhibitions at Shulamit Nazarian and Various Small Fires in Los Angeles, California; Fisher Parrish, Brooklyn, New York and Stems Gallery, Brussels, Belgium. In 2021 she was awarded the Hallie Ford Fellowship. She is based in Portland, Oregon.