Thrill Issues

Artist: Janiva Ellis
painting | Oil on canvas | 2413x1956mm | 2017

In her paintings, Janiva Ellis makes pointed use of humor, repurposing imagery from popular media and art that informed her youth, appropriating animated characters that often represent underlying tension in her paintings’ narratives. In the foreground of the hybrid landscape presented in the Biennial, a mysterious scene unfolds in which a graphically rendered figure guards a morphing cartoon that is carefully blended together from multiple applications of paint. Simultaneously projecting determination, amusement, and stress, the forms are exaggerated yet dwarfed by the vastness of the landscape. While the characters are not bound together by an explicit narrative, their relationship to one another becomes an engine of intrigue. It also serves as a complex point of entry to the monumental landscape, which is executed in brilliant colors and with vivid attention to the materiality of paint, creating a distinctive backdrop. (Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Image courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, New York. Photograph by Joerg Lohse)


Whitney Biennial 2019 | 2019.05.17 - 2019.09.22 | Whitney Museum of American Art(New York City, NY, United States)