Review: Rosson Crow — The Modern in Fort Worth

[Originally published in Arts and Culture magazine]

Bloody Good: Crow’s work focuses on America’s past with a new — badly needed — vector

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Dallas-born artist Rosson Crow has been described a platinum-haired stunner who currently resides in the glamorous environs of Los Angeles.  She’s known for choosing her attire with discriminating care and, consequently, one might find her work rather surprising.  It’s highly masculine and fraught with an animated and spectacular, even lurid, attentiveness to bloody carcasses.

For those accustomed to the still life paintings of, say, dead game that emanated from Europe in the 1600s, this is quite another genre.  It’s a study in execution and destruction.  Ms. Crow takes as her point of departure mythic events that culminate in depictions akin to ruined and cavernous abattoirs. Nice.

But before you pause and decline a trip to The Modern, I suggest you gut up and go.  Bucket of Blood Saloon Destroyed by San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 is just one painting in this small and brilliant selection of pieces that make it worth your time and effort.  If you’ve never seen magnesium burn, this is your hot chance. Ms. Crow shows us a splitting chandelier that’s marvelous in it’s exploding incandescence.  It throws into “focus” deconstructed architectural segments that epitomize decadent and complex notions of masculinity run amok. The panel has enough dripping red to suggest a crime scene — and perhaps that’s the point.  There’s a historical violence of unbridled ferocity that’s being addressed.  And, put simply, it’s bloody good.

It’s been pointed out that Ms. Crow shares a lineage that reaches back to Carracci and then moves forward to link up with the contemporaneous Francis Bacon. And I suspect those touchstones offer ingress into her work. However, they’re not needed for a “straight-on” encounter with the surface of her canvases. No prep work is necessary. She’ll invite you into the indelicate world of rifle shops and butcher shops. No invitation needed.

However, things do become more interesting when you learn that Queens Butcher Shop, 1910 refers to a found black and white photograph of an actual shop in Queens, New York.  And it’s been also underscored that “Queens” can operate as a double entendre for slang vernacular denoting gay bars and decadent, even seductive, spaces in American culture that are frequently overlooked or deliberately ignored. The painting is raw and sexy in a primal ritual-initiation kind of way. It dares you to enter. And so, of course, you must. And don’t merely opt to peer closely.  Back up and catch it from afar.  It will burn all the more brightly for the distance and engage you in a wholly new way.

The 26-year-old artist recently wrote, “America has always had its own raunchy brand of decadence.”  Indeed. And her paintings pay homage to our romantic notions of nostalgia and patriotism by underscoring its shadow side.  As Ms. Crow put it, “We have a crude, sure-as-shit swagger over history… demanding that it bend to our will….” Yes, we do.  And, when it comes to making us reflect upon the excessive nature of our compulsions, it’s interesting that Ms. Crow’s art can demand that we look again and yet again at the past with more than the systematic myopic gaze to which we’re accustomed. If this is gore, give me more.

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