An interview with Allison Sommers
Abandoning deference for playful irreverence, Allison Sommers draws on her interests in renaissance and baroque art, toying with staid motifs and trading solemnity for nose-thumbing whimsy. She delights in deconstructing the seriousness of historical tropes of art, and tempers sweetness with subtle touches of dark foreboding and sexual deviance.
Allison Sommers studied early modern history at the University of Virginia, where she was able to legitimize a lifelong love of the historical narratives and themes of the Old World, much of which continue to inform her work. She currently works as an art director for a newsweekly in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lives with her partner Gerrit and their hedgehog, Ludwig. She has previously exhibited work at Thinkspace (Los Angeles), Ad Hoc (NYC), Gallery1988 (Los Angeles and San Francisco), Distinction Gallery (Escondido), DvA Gallery (Chicago), and at the Gen Art Vanguard New Contemporary Art Fair at Art Basel Miami.
Please talk a lil' bit about the general idea/vibe behind your new series of works for 'A Brief History'. What can our gallery patrons expect this coming May?
When I was first planning the show, I knew that I wanted to work with the long-necked creatures of mine that were showing up in my paintings. They're so silly and ambiguous, little nattily-dressed ids causing trouble, fornicating, murdering, being all sorts of naughty. I wanted to place them more firmly in their own world and explore the interactions of that culture with others that may be in their vicinity-- the Rudi cats, the little children around-- and this show is the result of that. It was very important to me that they were not placed too rigidly in their surroundings, or especially within any historical trajectory (the show title is a little joke, really), because I found that to be a little stifling creatively, and a little old-fashioned pedagogically.
I think topically it helped a great deal. Particularly for this show, I found myself reaching back for many of the conventions and concepts of the culture I studied and finding ways to skew it. This led me quite by accident to deal with more religious themes than I wanted to at the outset, but I suppose that's what you get when you start digging into Western society's closets. At any rate, I think one of the most important things that I took away from my history degree is removing my impression of the 'past' as something static, distant, and drastically different from any cultures now-- people have always been silly and lewd and wonderfully disgusting. That's informed me greatly as I explored the long-necked fellows as an (possibly historical, if not just anthropological) other.
This will probably sound evasive, but it's important to me that the viewer have their own experience of the work, particularly since I don't have an agenda (of which I'm aware). My personal experience of my work is very intimate, particularly the larger pieces in which I spend so much time fleshing out details that I get bewildered that it's not real, and I have a hard time imagining that I could communicate that to another person... at the LCD, I suppose I hope one experiences these as somewhat ambiguous, fun-poking, escapist works. I do feel that if you explicate them too thoroughly, the joke's on you. :)
Working on some of my super-secret tinies for the show!
May 8th – June 5th
Opening Reception: Fri, May 8th, 7-11PM
Sneak Peek at ‘A Brief History’:
4210 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Thur-Sun 1-6PM or by appointment