New York-based painter Grace Metzler creates canvases filled with idealised images of Old America as well as the dark humour and absurdity of the modern world. She explores the darker aspects of the human psyche, relationships, conflicts and sexuality. Her paintings combine a reverence for art historical detail with an appreciation for the chaos and vibrancy of contemporary life. Her characters jump rope, play table tennis or American football, ride horses or roller skate, and engage in many other everyday activities. With every brushstroke, Grace Metzler explores the ways people live.
The artist, who lives in Brooklyn, sensitively combines drama, absurdity and the magic of contemporary life. She regularly references historical art styles or specific artworks. Her paintings range from tiny to monumental-sized canvases and are united by thoughtful brushstrokes that create remarkable detail. Her paintings deserve close viewing, for which she rewards the viewer with small details or characters hidden in the background that interact humorously with the main scene.
She creates strangely busy scenes with expressive brushstrokes and an unusual colour palette, leaning mainly towards red and bold green. "If I were to be stuck on an island and was only able to bring 3 tubes of paint they would be Fanchon Red, Cadmium yellow light and Mars Black. The combination of mars black, cad yellow light, with a touch of red, make a very gnarly green. And that is my favourite colour - Gnarly Green," she stated in an interview for New York's TURN Gallery.
The paintings transport the spectator to the American countryside of old
The atmosphere of days gone by is often present in her paintings. The rural America of yesteryear has seeped into her work from memories of vacations spent on her grandparents' farm in Slaterville Springs, New York. You can notice these old-world themes not only in the background landscapes, but also in the interiors, which include not only farm buildings, barns and stables, but also gas stations and snack bars typical of the American countryside. On the one hand, there is a kind of sleepy modern western feel to these images, in which time slows down and people have a chance to come together; on the other hand, diverse narratives and interactions seep through even here.
There is almost always a sense of tension in Grace Metzler's paintings. They seem to move between a calm depiction of everyday life and a wondrous imagery of magical rituals and fairy tales.
Each character has its own story
At the same time, the painter's work has a strong relationship with the characters she depicts and their unique stories. The characters often make repeated appearances throughout her work, sometimes emerging after time as rediscovered friends, while at other times, a completely new character appears. "I really like learning from the people in my paintings. They often help me out by telling me who they are and what their needs are," the painter says. At the same time, she admits that the characters often change during the course of the creative process, as the whole concept continuously evolves.
Looking at Grace Metzler's paintings, the spectator can't help but feel that they are spying on her characters, in a way. Often they depict intimate scenes, often with sexual tension. "I am interested in the blurry lines of intimacy in relationships. I want to celebrate these subtle nuances of intimacy and elevate the mundane in sex and in life." the painter states. Often the scenes are not overtly sexual; the characters are hugging, pressing together or sitting on each other's laps, and the spectator is left guessing what might happen next. Many characters are also naked or dressed only in underwear.
Skaters in front of Godzilla and runners in a magic ritual
The work Friday Night Skate is an example of the way sports motifs appear in Grace Metzler's work. In what at first glance seems to be a joyful scene, three figures are happily roller-skating, but on closer examination, the spectator is drawn to the background of a black and white painting of Godzilla and King Kong.
The painting titled Make-out Hole + Runners again shows men running along the edge of a forest with two fires burning within. The runners are moving around the fire and appear to be performing some kind of magical ritual, accompanied by a kissing couple and several other figures. The entire composition straddles the line between an ordinary evening run in the woods and a fairy tale filled with sorcery.
The New York artist exhibits in the United States and Denmark
Grace Metzler was born in 1989 in New York. She graduated from New York's Hunter College in 2017 and was awarded the prestigious Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant in the same year. Since then, she has regularly shown her work in solo and group exhibitions.
Last year, for example, she showed her works as part of an exhibition titled Naturally Selected at V1 Gallery in Copenhagen. She was also featured at Taymour Grahne Projects in London in the show It's show time; everyone's a winner at the end. In 2021, her work was featured in the same gallery as part of a group show Contemporary Domesticity alongside other contemporary young artists such as Gina Beavers, Asif Hoque, Raelis Vasquez and Madelynn Mae Green. She has already exhibited at Copenhagen's V1 Gallery in 2019, where she showed her vision of a world where there is no time left to pretend and everyone does what they want in an exhibition called Oxen. In the same year, she also participated in the show In the Summertime at the Danese/Corey gallery in New York, along with a dozen other artists, celebrating the joyful emotions associated with the summer.