Perrotin is pleased to announce Wish, a solo exhibition of paintings and watercolors by New York–based artist, Kelly Beeman, her first show with the gallery and her first in Asia.

At the heart of Beeman’s works is a predicament between reality and fantasy, temporality and permanence in acts of escape versus the fantasy of escapism. While fashion and garment patterns play a central role in each painting, each background is a minimal landscape, as if the women exist on a theatrical stage. Each woman seems to be dreaming with desire for freedom, whether in reaction to the global shutdown or as a necessary release into selfhood and self-realization. Beeman is challenging herself to find meaning in our isolation, to form an almost mythical explanation for our need to be connected to nature, family and friends in times of uncertainty.

Beeman deliberately dresses her subjects in simple yet delicately patterned clothing, high fashion ensembles that evoke a sense of wealth and make-believe. Beeman talks about her characters escaping their everyday lives into something more idealized. She speaks of fleeting snapshots of a fantasy in each painting and watercolor, an almost voyeuristic vantage point into a dream or perfect moment. In each work, the viewer finds their own pleasure and fantasy, recalling how fleeting our own moments of pure joy really are. That the clothing conveys so much movement and timelessness and the landscapes so stark and minimal gives each work the sense of not being fully formed, like a memory drifting off.

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“We create these false ‘pure’ moments in our memories,” Beeman says. “We are always looking back for pleasure and to the future with hope and a little apprehension. When we look back it’s almost pleasure seeking, and when we look forward it’s this sense that we can recreate what has already happened. I think my paintings balance on this beam between the past and future.

In a central work in the exhibition, a woman holds a drum around her neck, a reference Beeman notes to The Tin Drum. In that 1959 novel by Gunter Grass, the main character, Oskar Matzerath, is stuck in his own permanent childhood and is literally the master of his own reality. Beeman often speaks of fantasy in this way, as our desire to create our own reality and perpetual need for a type of childhood innocence. As mature as the works are, there is an agelessness in them, a sort of suspended early adulthood where the characters are nostalgic for their own self-idealized age.

In another work, a woman sits with a fishbowl in front of her, casually looking up to the viewer while three fish swim below her gaze. The character is ponderous, understanding that the contained nature below her is a sign of mortality and temporality once again. Fish in a bowl do not enjoy a long lifespan, and yet there is a nurturing sense to the woman. Throughout the paintings and watercolors, Beeman’s women are all on the brink of something both comforting and dangerous, comfortable with nature but also too unfamiliar to fully embrace this pure existence.

 Through the exhibition, Beeman challenges our ideas of what we want from our memories. Do we want pleasure? Do we want an escape? Do we want to return to a time where our happiness was more than just a fleeting instant? “There is a crisis just underneath the surface of each of these works, and then I dress up the characters in these beautiful clothes and flatly composed landscapes to create an almost universal place. It’s a made-up world that we all live in.” —Evan Pricco