New York, Park & 75
Addressing the darker fears that arise when we encounter the unknown, Domestic Horror probes the friction between the civilized world and baser human impulses. The word “domestic” contains a potent double meaning here, alluding to the unintended consequences that can occur—in private life and in a larger national and cultural life—where internalized anxieties meet external pressures.
Ndiaye and Spann confront the perils of political turmoil by disrupting familiar images of cultural stability: the office space of the state newspaper of Senegal, in shambles after an anti-government protest; an American flag, deconstructed and reassembled with a single ominous, looming star. Working with structures of concealment and visibility, Figgis and Juszkiewicz construct surreal, discomforting scenes of physical and societal suppression. Figgis’s ghoulish, psychedelic painting of a well-dressed family mocks the ritual of aristocratic portraiture, while Juszkiewicz parodies Louis Léopold Boilly’s Portrait of Madame Saint-Ange Chevrier in a Landscape (1807) by suffocating the titular subject with fabric and foliage wrapped tightly around her head.
As a subversive nod to the tradition of depicting dead game in academic still-life painting, Merrill’s Cat with Eel and Snail (2019) instead imagines a moment in which the artist’s subjects break free from a carefully composed tableau. Merrill reanimates the once lifeless forms of the cat, eel, and snail, allowing them to inflict their inherently violent tendencies upon one another. While Merrill’s subject matter and muted color palette constitute a somber memento mori, her loose, erratic brushstrokes imbue the scene with a frenetic energy that is very much alive.
Rife with physiological drama, the fleshy, fabric-draped forms of Bonnet’s Interior with Pink Blanket (2019) exaggerate the human body’s contours to the limits of recognizability. Her eerie composition suggests that in everyday life only the thinnest veneer of propriety masks the grotesque from view.