Rebecca Farr: CAVE
Five Car Garage, Santa Monica
Through October 17, 2021
Written By Shana Nys Dambrot
Rebecca Farr’s exhibition at Five Car Garage unfolds in layers of site and meaning. A tremendous suite of large, moody paintings blend iconic philosophical and mythological narratives with post-Enlightenment imagery in a shadowy, rich but dissolute style that flickers in and out of abstraction. They are presented in a three-walled space that itself evokes one of her main sources of inspiration and material — Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in which he proposes a conceptualization of the nature of reality based on the difference between direct experience and mediated, sublimated and obscured knowledge.
In Plato’s story, we are asked to imagine how differently we would think the world to be if instead of moving through it in the light, we watched its reflections pass overhead on the far wall like a shadow play. The further recurring motif of the cave in Farr’s thoughts and on her canvases appears simultaneously as a place of safety, like a dwelling or a womb, and as the entrance to the underworld and a place of renewal and of seeking for mystical knowledge as with Persephone and Ulysses. In the psychoanalytical investigations of Carl Jung, the cave itself becomes a powerful metaphor for encountering the shadow self and examining one’s relationship to the archetypes of their own and the collective psyche. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” Jung wrote, encompassing all of these meanings and more.
These ideas are expressed in the imagery of Farr’s scenes — people gathered around glowing flames in Campfire Stories, the mouth of the cave becoming light and cold in what feels like a blinking blue dawn above Dionysus’ verdant grotto in Bird Call, a stooped woman in heavy skirts stumbling toward a world lit by an unfamiliar sun in The Return. Mysterious figures attend the mouth of the cave with the witchy energy of both welcome and threat in The Guardians. The almost Francis Bacon-esque fearsome flouncy buttercup jumble in Prince specifically speaks to individuation and gender, creating a blend of masculine and feminine presentations expressing a holistic continuum that transcends a male/female binary.