In Katja Farin’s eight-by-six-inch painting Dog Attack People Stack, 2019, three standing figures bent at the waist are piled on top of one another in an intimate but inexplicable arrangement. Their brown-, green-, and ocher-skinned bodies are purposefully unresolved—their musculature is unarticulated, their facial features barely marked. They stand on an imperfectly rendered tile floor whose wavering pattern hints at receding space but, in the end, draws more attention to the means of its own making. The painting, like most of the others on view, is self-conscious and self-referential: Within the composition is another painting, hanging on the wall, that depicts two dogs locked in a similarly enigmatic embrace. Some works include more explicitly theatrical settings (in fact, Farin loosely based these pictures on photographs she took of friends within a stage set in her studio), invoking the performativity of making a painting, of posing for a painting, of seeing a painting. In this sense, Farin continues the long legacy of queer artists giving the finger to Michael Fried’s homophobic screed against “theatrical” works by employing theatricality to open their practices to interpretive exchanges between all kinds of bodies.
Titled “Carry, Carries, Carried,” the exhibition builds on Farin’s recent work exploring the “fireman’s carry,” a rescue method used by emergency workers in which they drape another person across their shoulders. Here, the artist has expanded her investigations to other, less utilitarian ways that bodies might hold one another and hold space. In queer slang, to “carry” also means to care too much, or to earnestly try too hard, but often with a self-conscious wink—an apt description of Farin’s sincere and theatrical bodies. Her figures embody the iterative (and often inexplicable) gestures, poses, and movements that make up the relational self.