July 2008, Melissa Frost @ STYX Project Space


 Melissa Frost
 Swank is what your life lacks
 Ink on Paper
 2008

Melissa Frost 
STYX Project Space

Exactitude is not the truth. L'exactitude n'est pas la vérité.
-Henri Matisse, 1947

Two men gaze eerily out from the painting, their mouths drawn into tight-lipped grimaces. One of the gentlemen tilts his head at a cocky angle while the other smirks lasciviously through his grimace. The image looks as though it was captured at a Kiwanis club meeting in a time when men still put on a tie and a jacket before leaving the house. The rigid figures, painted in negative, are difficult to decipher. It is not that the work is abstract, it is very clear that there are two men in this painting; however, should the work be viewed as a rendering of a photographic negative? Is it purely a work of the artists’ imagination? Should the idea of photography really come into play at all? After all, there are no photographs being exhibited here.

Melissa Frost’s exhibition at STYX project space in Berlin confronts the audience with questions of historical accuracy, documentation, space, and above all, time. The time between the taking of the found photograph Frost uses as a source and the present; clothing, positioning, and personal expression makes the fact that the world has moved on painfully evident. Frost’s paintings are ostensibly taken from older photographs, as the subjects grumpily glare into the camera in contrast to the flashes of shining white teeth seen in today’s digital images. Yet, the focus isn’t at all on the technology of the photograph, rather on the singular moment that has been captured. Inevitably, today’s photographs seem to have less worth, as they are so readily available.



Melissa Frost
I wanted to see what the fuss is about
Ink on paper
2008

In I wanted to see what the fuss is about Frost has painted, in negative, a lone couple on an outcrop of rocks, seemingly at some blustering northerly beach. The woman stands, rigidly unsmiling; her claw-like hand tightly clenching the air besides the umbrella leaning against her leg. The man, perhaps her husband, stands beside her, stiff backed and stoic. It is only later, after seeing the positive Frost has created as a companion piece, that the beauty of the documentation of this insignificant, yet historical, moment is recognized. The reversal of the negative painting allows us to see the delicate folds of the umbrella, the chain of the man's pocket watch, and the ghoulish circles under the couples eyes. The original found image captures the reality of the moment, however Frost gives only her interpretation, compelling the audience to experience her view. The works are a monument to second order observation. Frost’s uncanny use of the fourth dimension in her work adds an eerie depth to what may have been a perfectly mundane moment and as a re-creator of historical moments Frost retains the right to be the final authority.

Her droll wall charts graph topics such as the percentage of aliens in American film in comparison to the occurrence of heartbreak as a theme in Western popular music. The viewer is never quite sure in which direction the laughter is directed, but the chuckle brought about by these smaller works is well deserved. They poke fun at the more ridiculous aspects of modern society, bringing together unrelated topics into a slapstick of self proof. Frost’s ability to bring an uncomfortable smile and chortle further reveals itself in her A Modern Adaptation to Cyrano de Bergerac consisting of a 90’s boom box and a mix tape containing the compilation of pop music used to torture Manuel Noriega into surrender. Frost’s fascination with sonic torture stems from the idea that what is being used in this method of torture is often the same as what is heard on our local radio stations. Frost also explains that one can almost hear the heartbreak of America’s military over Noriega’s perceived betrayal in songs ranging from Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave your Lover to Nowhere to Run To by Martha and the Vandelas.



 Melissa Frost
 I wanted to see what the fuss is about
 
Inverted version
 Ink on paper
 2008

Melissa Frost’s work is shown in conjunction with Jon Campbell in the newly inaugurated STYX project space in Berlin. Michael Rade and Elena Sinanina coordinated the exhibition, which runs through the 19th of July, and can be seen by appointment. The vernissage will feature a performance by Berlin based performance group Femme Façade on 19 July 7 – 10 PM.


Alicia Reuter is a freelance art historian and critic living and working in Berlin.  She is currently working on a project examining the use of contemporary art in advertising.  alicialreuter@hotmail.com

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