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Sweet Talk


The history of art is bestrewn with a perpetual interest in "the worlds oldest profession", from the vibrant oils of Toulouse-Lautrec to the insistent journal entries of Wojnarowicz. It's an issue likely to crop up if not on the fringes of your neighborhood, then certainly in the "massage" ads that clutter the classifieds of many free newspapers.

It is from these and other sources that artist Erika Ranee takes some inspiration for her new show, "Sweet Talk" (through June 27th) on view at Slate Gallery (136 Wythe Avenue). In a vibrant and lush suite of quasi-abstract images, the painter tackles, from the artists's statement, "the seduction of "bling" culture and women in the sex trade." Mineral accretions of acrylic and shellac give the paintings the feel of abstracted studies from nature. (a few seem to emanate a chalky perfume, possibly from the gouache that plays prominently among her materials). Upon closer examination, textual and figurative fragments begin to emerge. In "John," large pools of dazzling, gem tone pigment overlap concealing collaged fragments of sex ads that can just be made out, "huge Caribbean, clean and discreet."

The interplay of the exposed and the veiled continues in "Making Rain" where the hips and breasts of female erotic dancers seem to appear and then dematerialize beneath colorful washes and gold leaf. Brilliant splashes of electric pinks and violet read like the powdery rouge of cosmetics and fashion, simultaneously covering and heightening the drama beneath. The artist nimbly balances, through media and process the paradox of the public and the hidden intimacies of her subject's sundry exchanges.