Isolation & Affluence
Caroline Walker at Anat Ebgi, LA
Los Angeles is the entertainment industry. If you don’t work directly for film and television, it’s likely you indirectly or tangentially have some connection to Hollywood. You have to wonder what sort of psychological effect that has on a regional population. In a place where beauty and youth is a ruthless commodity (especially for women), how does one find happiness and fulfillment? One false solution to this quandary is the chic wellness companies that crop up in California, but healing crystals and tinctures are just another offshoot of botox and surgery. The issue is that contentment and love is equated to your twenties, and human life is simply incompatible with this idea of happiness. Not to be bleak, but the reality is that you are born, you live and age, and then you die. To fight this inevitable truth is to fight an impossible battle. Hollywood may require you to be Dorian Gray, but the cost of this is still unknown. The work of Caroline Walker explores that mystery in her haunting exhibition Sunset at Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles.
Walker, who is from Scotland originally, is known for figurative work that shows uneventful scenes almost always featuring women. Los Angeles is a common subject for her as well, and the parameters are no different here. In Sunset, the artist sets up a narrative around a single individual: a middle-aged woman of means. You may not recognize her specifically, but her character is seen constantly through The Real Housewives, various films, or most society pages. Walker, according to the gallery, hired a former pageant queen to pose for these vignettes to achieve an accurate feeling. The scale and ratio of these paintings reference popular culture, too. They’re often large, and some have the colorful, widescreen look of a television.
This all sounds interesting enough, but the subversion in these works begin once you look a bit closer. You see this person lunching, exercising, examining themselves in front of a mirror, a pool boy sweeping leaves away from her recumbent body, or lounging in her modernist villa in the starry hills. You never really know the whole story when you look at these works, and that really isn’t the point. These on-paper ideals feel melancholic and empty. It’s as if though the wealth has sucked all of the pleasure out of life. Even when a dog or some sort of domestic laborer is present in a painting, they aren’t interacting with or even looking at this woman. She is all alone, and suddenly Hollywood feels very nihilistic.
These paintings and drawings tend to show the problem with material wealth. Doing pilates, laying in the sun, or having lunch at a luxurious restaurant is certainly pleasant, but it does absolutely nothing to fulfill or immortalize you. As anyone can see, the subject of these paintings has been abandoned, and has only been left with her objects and her rituals. In the age of Trump and #MeToo, the glamour and decadence suddenly feels like a prison. The real achievement of Sunset is that these works take the “good life” and transform it into an elegy.