In the Culture of One World Randy Gener

A Global Media Project | Arts Economy, Cultural Diplomacy and Critical Thinking

IN EXHIBITION | Women as biomorphic abstractions in Ashley Bickerton’s fourth Neo-Geo solo show

Ashley Bickerton's "m-DNA_eve 3" (Detail), 2013, oil and acrylic on digital print on fiberglass and resin, 78 x 53.5 x 4 inches (182.9 x 135.9 x 10.2 cm)

Ashley Bickerton‘s “m-DNA_eve 3″ (Detail), 2013, oil and acrylic on digital print on fiberglass and resin, 78 x 53.5 x 4 inches (182.9 x 135.9 x 10.2 cm)

NEW YORK |  Ashley Bickerton calls his biomorphic abstractions of women “m-DNA.” That’s a reference to the “Mitochondrial Eve,” a scientific and mathematical theory in the field of genetics. The theory says that every living human being alive today descends from a single woman who lives in East Africa around 100,000 years ago. Through this maternal bloodline, we humans are linked. Bickerton refers to her as an “atheist Madonna.”

Bickerton, who lives and works in the Indonesian city of Bali, will put on display an interrelated series of bold, colorful portraits of women at Lehmann Maupin. He has been working on these women portraits for two years now. Bickerton’s fourth solo show at the gallery is on view at 201 Chrystie Street from September 11 to October 26, 2013. The artist will be present for an opening reception on Wednesday, September 11 from 6 to 8 PM.

Bickerton’s portraits of women are perhaps some of the most arrestingly conceptual since the women of Willem de Kooning. The exhibition is entitled “Mitochondrial Eve/Viral Mother.”

From the beginning of his career, Bickerton has challenged traditional art forms, following the lineage of conceptualists who have considered the potential of readymade objects and images in visual culture. In the early 80’s, he embarked on what has become a career-long process of experimenting with the hybridization of forms, materials and methods that blur boundaries between painting, sculpture and photography and the artwork as commodity. He has often oscillated between abstraction and figuration, always with a conceptual base, and increasingly is exploring the differences between representation in western and non-western cultures.

In his paintings from the last decade he has turned his attention more specifically to reimagining art historical genres including portraiture and landscape painting, while drawing inspiration from such artists as de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and many others.

In “Mitochondrial Eve/Viral Mother,” the paintings on display are based on sculpted figures of women he creates out of clay, marking a significant shift in his practice from working from live models. This decision has enabled Bickerton to begin with a far more abstracted figurative form as the root of his work, resulting in what he refers to as a form of “biomorphic abstraction.”

Adorned with globs of paint, seashells, cigarette necklaces, rotting food, flowers, insects and butterflies, the embellished clay busts are photographed from different angles, digitally manipulated using Photoshop, printed on canvas, which is mounted on either wood or fiberglass, and then finally reworked with layers of oil and acrylic paint to create truly hybrid art forms. Here Bickerton’s merging of figuration and abstraction comes to new levels: in m-DNA eve 3, for example, he has nearly obscured the image of the figure with impasto strokes of vibrant green, blue and yellow paint, blending the foreground and background until the model’s bulging, exaggerated features seemingly emerge from the camouflage.

In conjunction with these figurative paintings, Bickerton is exhibiting a selection of new sculptures for the first time. Like the “m-DNA” paintings, they begin with the artist’s clay figurative forms, which here are cast in metal and fiberglass and mounted on concrete bases. The sculptures reference the tradition of immortalizing subjects stemming back to antiquity while taking inspiration from art history, fashion, popular media, cultural anthropology and even pornography. In doing so, Bickerton challenges and complicates accepted standards of beauty across Eastern and Western cultures. Having moved to Bali in 1993, the artist’s geographic position has influenced his work in form, content and critical approach. With his unique island perspective, he is at times self-mocking in his style and often incorporates overtly wild color, as well as references to craft and island culture into his sculpture and painting.

The exhibition also includes a group of new, large-scale abstract “paintings” comprised of layers of paint and photographs merged with three-dimensional forms that highlight the hybridity of materials and processes the artist has come to be known for in his recent works. Here Bickerton incorporates fiberglass molds cast from heavily modeled clay forms, and affixes photographs of the surface of the paintings themselves. Also included in the show are a group of Bickerton’s colorful “landscapes” that are covered by three-dimensional “eyeballs”. These “eyes” are handmade in resin with manipulated digital irises and pupils, based on images found in a range of printed materials, from touristic postcards to representations of artistic masterpieces. These works are displayed in elaborate carved wooden frames with mother of pearl inlay, a reference to the handmade craft typically found in island culture where Bickerton lives and a nod to his ongoing fusion of cultural and artistic sensibilities.

Ashley Bickerton (b. 1959, Barbados, West Indies) graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 1982 and continued his education in the Independent Studies Program (ISP) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. A seminal figure in the East Village scene of the 1980s, Bickerton has been associated with the “Neo-Geo” approach to art making. For the last 20 years, he has been living in Bali, an environment that has influenced his art making in distinctive ways and enabled him to investigate new ideas of culture and beauty.

Bickerton’s work has been included in exhibitions in museums around the world, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2012); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2012); Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2011); New Museum, New York (2010); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006), among others. He has also been included in prominent international biennales, among them the 9th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (1992); the 44th Venice Biennale (1990); and the 1989 Whitney Biennial. His work is included in the collections of Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, among others.


Ashley Bickerton's "Abstract painting 3," 2013, acrylic and oil paint on digitally printed canvas on fiberglass, 35 x 42 x 4 inches (88.9 x 106.7 x 10.2 cm)

Ashley Bickerton’s “Abstract painting 3,” 2013, acrylic and oil paint on digitally printed canvas on fiberglass, 35 x 42 x 4 inches (88.9 x 106.7 x 10.2 cm)


About Randy Gener

Randy Gener is the Nathan Award-winning editor, writer, critic, playwright and visual artist in New York City. He is the author of the plays "Love Seats for Virginia Woolf," "Wait for Me at the Bottom of the Pool," "A Parliament of the Streets," and others. His conceptual installation, "In the Garden of One World" (designed by Nic Ularu), debuted in 2008 at La MaMa La Galleria in New York. He is a renowned lecturer and speaker in the arts and technology, appearing at such schools as the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center-Graduate Center, City University of New York, Montclair State University, University of South Carolina, Brooklyn College; U.S. and European festivals as Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Prague Quadrennial for World Scenography, William Inge Theatre Festival, Humana Festival of New American Plays; as well as such institutions as Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Hallmark Inc., Dramatists Guild of America, Odeon Theatre of Bucharest, Romanian Cultural Institute-New York, Long Wharf Theater Company, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and La MaMa E.T.C.

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“From the Edge: Performance Design in the Divided States of America” at LaMaMa La Galleria

On Smart Power, International Cultural Exchange and Performance Design | An Interview by Amanda White Thietje

RANDY GENER and I met in Prague this summer, where we were both attending the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ). I was wandering through the exhibits, soaking up the inspiration and the beauty of the city; he was serving as both curatorial advisor of "From the Edge" (USITT’s USA National Pavilion) and Editor-In-Chief of this year’s PQ daily newspaper.
Randy agreed to talk with me about the PQ, and there’s so much in this interview I want to share with you that I’m going to post it in three parts. Click on the titles of each article below so you can read each part of the interview:

  • Interview – Part 1: "From the Edge"
  • Interview – Part 2: "Active Searching & The Value of the Prague Quadrennial"
  • Interview – Part 3: "A Ripple Effect."
  • -

    “From the Edge: Performance Design in the Divided States of America,” the USA national pavilion at Prague National Gallery

    From the Edge: Performance Design in the Divided States of America

    Reflections on curating and creating national expositions in an international art-based mega-exhibition in Prague

  • Curatorial essay: "Exhibiting a country on the edge: a U.S. approach to performance design"
  • USA exposition returns from Prague: "American performing garage under the sign of Obama"
  • Prague diaries: "Philadelphia theater-makers talk about how performance design affected their works and processes."
  • Interview with curators: "Curators speak about the thrills, challenges and obstacles of staging national expositions of design."
  • -

    Praise and Commendations

    >> "A first-rate writer and editor. Randy Gener understands culture in the widest sense: as news, as art, as politics, as media," Margo Jefferson, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer.
    >> "Mr. Randy Gener’s 'in the theater of One World,' a showcase of his own individual work, is taking up the slack that print journalism is leaving behind. You won’t find this in your local papers," Superfluities Redux.
    >> "The visionary," Instinct Magazine.
    >> "An internationalist, a champion of cultural exchange and dialogue," The New York Daily News.
    >> "Randy Gener's command of theatrical subjects is unequalled among his contemporaries," American Theatre magazine/Theatre Communications Group.
    >> "Randy Gener sheds light into censorship and repression of the arts," Judges of the Deadline Club Award, New York chapter of Society of Professional Journalists.
    >> "Randy Gener is one of the most compelling voices of our era of globalization," Ioana Ieronim, author, poet and Fulbright Program Director of Fulbright Commission Romania.
    >> "Gener draws our attention to largely ignored voices and visions on the international theatrical scene," Judges of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.
    >> "Mr. Gener holds himself to a high standard in his long-form journalism — perhaps a model for young journalists," Superfluities Redux.
    >> "Gener’s writing on theater, especially as it interacts with LGBT lives, is beautifully done, knowledgeable and almost lyrical in its language,” Judges of NLGJA Journalist of the Year.
    >> "Randy Gener demonstrates the ripple effect that spotlighting artistic passion can have," Judges of the Deadline Club Award, New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
    >> "Randy Gener's 'Love Seats for Virginia Woolf' is a meditative homage. Gener has staged his play with a subtle grace that complements the art objects' sedentary ingenuity. Never has Virginia's room of one's own been so suggestively furnished,” The Village Voice
    >> "Gener's accumulation of words in his play 'Love Seats for Virginia Woolf' are the feathery evanescence of the butterfly's wings clamped together with the bolts of iron that are the four loveseat sculptures. The actors become words personified. I was left astonished,” The Virginia Woolf Miscellany of the International Virginia Woolf Society.
    >> "His essays wed critical intelligence with a love of the telling and unruly fact," Judges of George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.
    >> "Gener went above and beyond with regard to enterprise, resourcefulness and overcoming of obstacles in the pursuit of the story," Judges of Deadline Club Award, New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
    >> "Randy Gener has been a tremendous asset to American Theatre ever since he was selected as a Jerome Foundation Affiliated Writer back in 1995-96, and especially since he joined the staff full-time in 2001," American Theatre magazine/Theatre Communications Group.
    >> "One of the leaders of the Asian American community," The New York Daily News.
    >> "In conferring the Pamana ng Pilipino (Legacy of the Filipino Nation) Presidential Award to Randy Gener, the President recognizes Gener's excellence in the field of theater arts and creativity, and diligence in promoting Filipino-American interests and accomplishments to mainstream audiences in Europe and the United States of America," His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines.


    Randy Gener is the Nathan Award-winning editor, writer, critic, curator, playwright and visual artist in New York City.
    His conceptual installation, "in the garden of One World," debuted at La MaMa La Galleria in New York. He is the author of "Love Seats for Virginia Woolf," and other plays.
    For his editorial work and critical essays as the senior editor of American Theatre magazine, Gener has received the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, the highest accolade for excellence in dramatic criticism in the United States; the Deadline Club Award for Best Arts Reporting from the New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists; five media awards for excellence in travel-writing from the annual North American Travel Journalists Association Awards competition; and the NLGJA Journalist of the Year 2010.

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    by randy gener

    randy gener pictured at columbus circle in manhattan

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