Emily Bicht recently showed some of her Ready to Rumble series at Fountain Art Fair in Miami (Dec. 3-7). This mixed media series explores the power dynamics of gender through male vs. female wrestling depictions. Fountain Art Fair is an alternative exhibition venue that is willing to show artists who do not fit the conventional gallery mold and who are willing to take risks with their work.
Set against a decorative backdrop, the male and female adversaries in Bicht’s panels occupy a rather compressed space, which intensifies the struggle at hand. After seeing her work online, I recalled attending the Sigmar Polke retrospective at MoMA in 1997. He achieved the same sort of compressed space in his ballpoint pen drawings and paintings from the 60s. One of Polke’s drawings from that retrospective was Damen-Ringkampfe (“Lady Wrestlers”), which assumes the vantage point of the male gaze (looking upon women combatants for entertainment).
Bicht’s work is more compelling in that subverts the expectations of the gaze. Male and female are engaged in a contest that is just as much symbolic and psychological as it is physical. Will one gender or the other prevail; or will some equilibrium ultimately be achieved – a draw? Jungian psychology, which has been informed by alchemical texts, suggests that each person’s psyche has both masculine and feminine attributes. We seek balance, which is only achieved after a long struggle of our inner opposites.
Ready to Rumble taps into the theme of physical struggle for power that can be dated by millennia, as the depictions below from ancient Egypt and Greece demonstrate.
The Greek forms look similar to those in Bicht’s Domestic Wrestling animation below.
Bicht’s work also reminds me of Wrestling Ladies, a theatre piece developed by Tory Vasquez and performed at P.S. 122 back in March 2003. Vasquez received a supporting grant for her project from the Creative Capital Foundation.
Project Description from the Creative Capital Website
Wrestling Ladies transforms a theatrical venue into a wrestling ring. In a visual style inspired by contemporary underground comics, the work depicts characters as combatants, superheroes, and saints who all struggle to transcend their given and created identities. The audience is witness to both their public battles and private histories. The primary character is an eleven year old girl Chasity a.k.a Devilish Angel who is obsessed with wrestling. The other characters include: Her mother, Maria Elena Vazquez, a ruthless champion; her soon to be stepfather, Louis, manager/coach of the ring; and her friend Lizard, a wrestler who keeps her company and protects her from evil. The action moves fluidly from fight scenes to surreal dances to moments of unexpected tenderness.
Fountain Art Fair Press Release
Fountain Miami, the alternative art exhibition known for presenting cutting-edge and independent art galleries, sets up shop in an industrial warehouse located at 25th Street and North Miami Avenue for its latest installment this December. Fountain is a guerrilla-style art event, dubbed by many as the “Anti Art Fair” for its brash, off-the-wall offerings of non-traditional art exhibitions in the art fair environment.
Recruiting avant-garde galleries who showcase progressive primary-market works, Fountain breathes fresh life into the Miami Beach “Basel Frazzle,” giving gallery-goers and art enthusiasts the opportunity to see new works without traditional booths or selection juries. While most fairs have fallen into the hands of corporate management, Fountain remains independent, and as such presents work in a forward-thinking manner. Unencumbered by the strict presentation guidelines and parameters found at other fairs, Fountain preserves the visions of galleries and dealers to provide an environment reflective of the artists and their works.
Fountain’s venue, a large and dramatic 16000 square-foot complex with both interior and exterior exhibition areas, is adjacent to all the major Wynwood fairs. Participating galleries receive approximately 1200 square feet of exhibition space, so visitors can expect massive installations of contemporary painting, sculpture, performance and new media art.
Artnet – the most widely read art site on the web – describes Fountain: “Likeability and chutzpah used to be what art was about. That, and a little guerrilla mentality, which you had at Fountain in spades. This is the place where you reminisce about the good old days, when you did it yourself, when inspiration and magic struck like a bolt from the blue. Here at Fountain, the artists and dealers are hungry and they welcome all visitors warmly. They are having fun and that’s the vibe. I felt like sitting down, having a beer, and hanging.”
Fountain Miami 2008 participating galleries include:
Fountain was launched in March 2006 in New York in an effort to leverage support for independent galleries overlooked by the larger, corporate-sponsored art fairs. The name “Fountain” is a nod to Marcel Duchamp’s controversial sculpture which shook up the art world when it was rejected by the Society of Artists’ exhibition in 1917. Similarly, in defiant contrast with The Armory Show, Art Basel Miami Beach, Pulse, Scope and the numerous other international art fairs, Fountain has received wide public support and critical acclaim for its experimental slant. In form and spirit, the artwork exhibited at Fountain reflects the avant-garde attitude of the Dada art movement, while attracting the attention of the international clientele and top collectors who attend the more traditional fairs.