April 4, 2020 - April 25, 2020
ALMA ZEVI Venice
ALMA ZEVI Venice is proud to announce Katy Stubbs: Price Choppers, the first solo exhibition of the young South African - British artist. The exhibition follows Stubbs’ residency at the gallery, which took place in March 2019. All of the ceramic pieces on display are being shown for the first time, and were either made in the city during her residency or directly inspired by Stubbs’ experience of Venice.
Price Choppers is a story of love, betrayal and loss. Twelve individual ceramic pieces together form a collective experience akin to a soap opera or epic saga; the doomed love affair between Judy, an unhappily married woman, and Jim, a fishmonger at a local supermarket. Within this narrative, Stubbs explores the possibilities the ceramic medium has for storytelling. Whilst some pieces echo traditional Greek vessels, for example, the amphora You Are So Beautiful To Me (2019), others are more akin to an everyday ‘readymade’; a crumpled receipt with a number scrawled across it or a street corner littered with beer bottles and cigarette ends. All the pieces are made and painted by hand and therefore retain traces of the artist’s process; merging together both sculpture and painting techniques.
Embedded within Stubbs’ work lies an important tension between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. The characters engage in clandestine sex acts or partake in salacious gossip - such as the laboratory beaker Rumours (2019-2020). Meanwhile, their composition is often a result of Stubbs’ fascination with Italian Renaissance paintings and classical literature. For example, the interlocking pose of two figures in Oh Shit! This Doesn’t Look Too Good (2019) takes inspiration from Fabio Girardi’s allegorical painting Cephalus and Procris (1817) in the collection of Accademia Galleries in Venice. Similarly, Supermarket (2019-2020) depicts the ‘coup de foudre’ of Achilles and Penthesilea from Homer’s Illiad.
In the piece Supermarket, Stubbs’ interest in food can be examined. As in the representations of her characters, there is a sharp paradox between the aesthetic we expect with popular representations of food – of wholesomeness and nutritiousness – and the visceral reality of food as a material. As a vegetarian, Stubbs’s piece Price Choppers Fish (2019) with its wet skin, crumpled paper and slit open stomach, is not a social commentary but an opportunity for the artist to live out a fantasy inspired by the artist’s experience in the famous Venetian fish market. In her own words, Those kind of moral practices - not eating meat – are really important to me in reality – but in ceramics you can have the freedom to do all the bad things I’m too shy to do.
Within this exhibition, Stubbs presents a lexicon of human emotions; ‘tragic’ in the traditional Greek sense of the word, yet deliberately banal. There is no redemption or happy ending. Her work can be interpreted in a British tradition of bawdiness and black humour, such as that found in Geoffrey Chaucer, yet also combines a ‘pop’ aesthetic of painting and sculpture which nods to Roy Lichtenstein’s homage to melodramatic comic strips. Rather fittingly, the artist herself says about her work: It’s about this blandness of life; the guilt and shame and the fallibility of humans.
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication released by ALMA ZEVI and designed by Patrick Müller, which contains a new interview with Stubbs by Lara Johnson-Wheeler.
Katy Stubbs (b. 1992) graduated from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 2015. Her work has been included in group exhibitions, including Odalisque With Red Culottes, ALMA ZEVI, 2018, Venice; The Wing, 2018, Washington; Window of Modern Art (WOMA), 2017, Berlin; and Unearthed, ROCKELMANN, 2016, Berlin. Stubbs completed a residency at ALMA ZEVI Venice in Spring 2019. Her work has been the subject of articles in It’s Nice That (2019), The Art Gorgeous (2019), Horst und Edeltraut (2017), and Artforum (2016).