Purse Strings and Body Bags

February 11th – April 2nd, 2017

Opening reception: Saturday, February 11th, 6-8pm

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MILLER is pleased to announce the solo exhibition of New York based artist Leeza Meksin presenting new paintings and a site-specific installation.

Leeza Meksin gives gray inanimates the chance to become charismatic drag performers, exploding static categories into brilliant shards. A humdrum building gussies itself up in colorful spandex; a gloomy basement room turns into a psychedelic cave oozing sexual innuendo; a sculpture is disguised as a collage disguised as a painting. Genders, mediums, structures, patterns, textures collide and burst into something new. Soft mesh becomes a rigid barrier; a roll of tulle is a man’s fat lip.

Though mostly abstract, Meksin’s work is very much about the body, especially the female body. Fabrics are layered on and stripped off with varying levels of speed and provocation; orifices spread open to expose human interiors. The surface of a painting bulges out, as if something is growing inside it. The exposure of what is meant to be hidden can cause a certain discomfort; the most vulnerable parts of the human body are brought out into the light, along with the process of art-making, the path between the creator and the product, the performance. The viewer is compelled to recollect the skeleton, the three-dimensionality, that lies beneath convincing fictions and smooth surfaces.

Purse Strings and Body Bags takes these lines of inquiry to new heights, and new depths. In Orange Revolt, the nether regions of the work open to reveal three layers of roughly painted wood. Peering inside, the viewer sees where the paint ends, where the artist has allowed raw material to be bare again. The effect is something like seeing a celebrity without her makeup on. Meanwhile, the flat surfaces of the work throw forward their competing narratives, offering textile stories from disparate times and places, with the fiery foot of a winged messenger descending from the sky. Trojan City Never Sleeps uses collage, cutouts, layering and distortion to create a mysterious tale, two horse armies fighting it out over a city made of human bodies. Desert Posts plays with levels of transparency, rejecting the opacity of traditional painting. Denied the ease of a unified surface, the viewer is asked to consider the many strata that form the whole, with layers concealing or exposing their predecessors to varying degrees.

In the interior/exterior site-specific installation, Purse Strings and Body Bags, a black and orange puffed sleeve extrudes from a transparent window, a grim architectural accessory. The languages of clothing and construction meet halfway. A building is putting itself under construction, creating its own image. But here, again, the faΓ§ade presented to the public is not opaque enough to conceal the interior; on the other side of the window is a collection of purse-like shapes, flat and transparent. They could be organs, a cross-section of a human body, or they could be the transparent bags carried by thousands of female protesters who have been required to conform to the demands of surveillance and security, pledging, upon arrival, to leave nothing hidden. -Sophie Pinkham


Leeza Meksin is an interdisciplinary artist, who makes paintings, installations, public art and multiples. Born in the former Soviet Union, she immigrated to the United States with her family in 1989. Meksin received a MFA from The Yale School of Art, a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a joint BA/MA in Comparative Literature from The University of Chicago. Meksin has created site-specific installations at The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in Salt Lake City (2016), The Kitchen, NYC (2015), BRIC Media Arts, Brooklyn (2015), Brandeis University, Waltham (2014), the former Donnell branch of the New York Public Library (2011), and in a National Endowment for the Arts funded project at Artspace, New Haven, CT (2012). She has exhibited at Regina Rex Gallery (2011, 2014), Airplane Gallery (2014), Primetime (2013), Adds Donna (2011) and Thomas Erben Gallery (2009). Meksin’s work has been featured in BOMB magazine, TimeOut Chicago, Chicago Tribune and many other publications. She is the recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist grant (2015) and the co-founder and director of Ortega y Gasset Projects, an artist-run gallery in Brooklyn, NY since 2013. Meksin lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.

Sophie Pinkham writes literary nonfiction and cultural criticism, with a focus on Russia and Ukraine. She is the author of Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine (W.W. Norton, 2016). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, n+1, the London Review of Books, Bookforum, BOMB, and the New Yorker online, among other publications. She lives in New York, where she is completing a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Columbia University.


Image: Leeza Meksin, Trojan City Never Sleeps, 2017, Oil, dye, flashe, silk, neoprene and spandex on linen, 54"x60”