Ewa Juszkiewicz’s Reimagined Historical Portraits of Women Scrutinize the Nature of Concealment

an oil painting after an 18th century painting of a woman in a white dress, leaning on a cushion, with fabric and a fern frond covering her face

“Untitled (after Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun)” (2020), oil on canvas, 130 x 100 centimeters. All images © the artist, courtesy of Almine Rech, shared with permission

From elaborate hairstyles to hypertrophied mushrooms, an array of unexpected face coverings feature in Ewa Juszkiewicz’s portraits. Drawing on genteel likenesses of women primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries, the artist superimposes fabric, bouquets of fruit, foliage, and more, over the women’s faces.

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In a collateral event during the 60th Annual Venice Biennale, presented by the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso and Almine Rech, Juszkiewicz presents a suite of works made between 2019 and 2024 that encapsulate her precise reconception of a popular Western genre. Locks with Leaves and Swelling Buds showcases her elaborate, technically accomplished pieces using traditional oil painting and varnishing techniques.

Juszkiewicz’s anonymous subjects are reminders of the systemic omission of women from the histories of art and the past more broadly. Literally in the face of portraits meant to memorialize and celebrate individuals, the artist erases their identities entirely, alluding only to the original artists’ names in the titles. In a seemingly contradictory approach, by drawing our attention to this erasure, Juszkiewicz stokes our curiosity about who they were.

“By covering the face of historical portraits, Juszkiewicz challenges the very essence of this genre: she destroys the portrait as such,” says curator Guillermo Solana. In a recent video, we get a peek inside the artist’s studio, where she describes how elements of another European painting tradition, the still life, proffers a rich well of symbolic objects to conceal each sitter’s face, from botanicals to ribbons to food.

Locks with Leaves and Swilling Buds continues in Venice at Palazzo Cavanis through September 1. Find more on the artist’s website and Instagram.

 

an oil portrait from a historic painting featuring a woman in a yellow dress against a burgundy background with hair and textiles tied all over her face

“Untitled (after François Gérard)” (2023), oil on canvas, 100 x 80 centimeters

an oil portrait from a historic painting featuring a woman in a blue and white dress against a neutral background with her blonde hair totally concealing her face

“Untitled (after Joseph van Lerius)” (2020), oil on canvas, 70 x 55 centimeters

two images side by side showing oil portraits of women, on the left a woman in an orange dress with fruit and ribbons covering her face, and on the right, a silhouette of a woman with red fabric over her whole top half with a pearl dangling from the top of her head

Left: “Portrait in Venetian Red (after Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun)” (2024), oil on canvas, 190 x 140 centimeters. Right: “Lady with a Pearl (after François Gérard)” (2024), oil on canvas, 80 x 65 centimeters

an oil painting of a female figure against a neutral background with numerous palm fronts and tropical plants totally concealing the face

“Bird of paradise” (2023) oil on canvas, 200 x 160 centimeters. Photo by Serge Hasenböhler Fotografie



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Source: thisiscolossal.com

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