Delightfully Indignant Women
Various Small Fires, Los Angeles
through October 26
By Sydney Walters
Visiting Various Small Fires to see Robin F. Williams With Pleasure is akin to sucking on a delectable sour candy. The sweet powdery topcoat manifests in her definitive line work and emphatic color gradients. Because of these bold gestures, her pieces read clearly on a digital platform and from a distance. But the sharpness of her work, the core and brilliance of the exhibition is her exquisite textures playing on the surface across images of women expressing perfect indignation.
In “Weathervane”, a woman uses a rooftop like a pommel horse, pointing her toes out from her hands supporting her body over the ridge of the roof. A bright French ultramarine traces the contours of the underside of her body creating an effect of rolling waves. She glares out at the viewer, one eyebrow raised, oblivious to the dark clouds rolling in behind her. Yet the intensity in both her stare and posture suggests she is well aware of the changing weather but watching takes precedent.
In “Alive with Pleasure”, two women, twins by the look of it, having identical stature and hair buns, hold onto a man’s legs at he grins in a headstand. His hair plumes away from his head as it rests on the watery sand by the sea. The women holding him looks impassive, their toned bodies shiny reflective surfaces in the sun. This painting taps deeply into the vein of misogynist history. A man, laughing with pleasure is having fun that is only possible by the hard work of women who, though holding him steady, have grimaces etched on their faces.
“Ice Queen” various from the rest of the show’s collection of paintings by depicting a smiling woman. But something is off. She is resting on ice, her legs pointing in an upward pirouette. A beautiful multi-colored line traces her body. Three things clue us something is not as it seems. First, her smile is traced in the same line as her body. This repeating gesture marks it as fixed as any of her other limbs. Secondly, there are two other figures smiling in With Pleasure. Both of them are men showing a glistening top layer of teeth exposed by a wide smile. In Ice Queen, the top and bottom teeth are rendered in a perfect and impossible grid giving the impression of it being locked on her face. And finally, if you cover up her mouth with your hand, her eyes are in the same deadpan expression as the rest of her comrades.
“With pleasure” is a common phrase, albeit outdated to anyone in the service industry. It is akin to the mantra “service with a smile.” Women have long been expected to uphold family and societal order passively and with a smile. With Pleasure divulges repressed female psyche. Robin executes this idea so poignantly and seductively her technical expertise is not to be missed.