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In the "Manipulation Series," Grace Graupe-Pillard layers images of her recurring fears and memories next to stills from cinematic classics to create panorama-scaled autobiographies. Graupe-Pillard asserts that our individual experiences combine with our media exposure to form a modern memory. We "remember" our wars through the works of Steven Spielberg or Matthew Brady, our urban neighborhoods through those of Spike Lee or Woody allen. Their images are so potent they create memories, overlay, or conjoin with our own.
To convey the fine line between perception and experience, every element of each composition in Graupe-Pillard's exhibition has been purposefully manipulated. Film stills have been cropped, split, and overpainted. Well-known films are represented by remote or forgotten frames. Singular images appear twice, their impact dulled or magnified as a result of this repetition.
Oil Glazes update Grace's old black-and-white family photographs with an almost backlit brightness. Racing through each composition, an image of a running man appears as a silhouette or a palimpsest, animating each painted field as he runs, from right to left. Inset panels reminiscent of colorfield paintings slow down the pace, creating a measured rhythm. A nude figure is centrally placed in two fourteen-foot compositions, her posture both shields and reveals her stories. As global as the World Wars and as domestic as divorce, Pillard's themes link the profound with the personal as does memory itself: with emotion and immediacy.
Advanced-technology art tools offer seamless melding of disparate images. Although Grace uses the camera and the computer, her compositions are ultimately hand-made, sections are adhered by hand, others are hand-painted. Her craft is in the manipulation of tools that span five centuries, from oil paint to digital printouts. These are not simple statements of complex thoughts, rather, they are very complex statements; indeed, the periodic inclusion of a Barnett Newman "Zip" is as welcome as it is ironic.
In works entitled, "Raging," "Fear," and "War," Pillard takes images of violence: a pummeled boxer, Hitler's soldiers in formation, a cradled corpse, in order to generate a heightened emotional response. We see the trauma, we know the fear, we are saddened by the image of death. These are now part of our shared experience. Does it matter that the beaten man is Robert DeNiro from "Raging Bull", or that the image of Hitler's troops is taken from Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will?" Does it matter whether the corpse is from an actual battlefield or from a feature film? Each image floats through our conscious stream with increasingly equal weight.
Smaller paintings, "B. at 18," "Carl," "Phyllis," also feature layered photographs and the running man, but each is fundamentally a portrait. Fragments within each work refer back to the sitter, albeit with a different color, or piece of the portrait puzzle enlarged or replaced. Like daily theater ads which give multiple viewpoints of the filmstar, Pillard's portraits immediately refer to Pop Art, specifically the serial celebrities of Andy Warhol. Pillard dispenses with the Warholian surface glitz and humor to create dimensional, earthy and sober portrait images. ®Marie Maber 2/2000