At the heart of Kenrick McFarlane’s work lies a profound exploration of representation, power dynamics, archetypes, and relationships. In META, male and female figures come together in psychologically-charged dreamlike sequences. These enigmatic scenes and figures engage in a complex negotiation with the viewer, erecting barriers that restrict the extent of our voyeuristic gaze, serving as conduits for the ways in which the mind processes the world and how it reconciles with one’s own fantasies, suppressed desires, and unsettling thoughts.
In this new body of work, Kenrick McFarlane delves into the tradition of painting, exploring conventional genres and subjects such as the portrait, the flaneur, and the female nude, infusing the paintings with a sense of bewilderment and unease. McFarlane presents female figures with voluptuous, often exaggerated forms. Some are inspired by popular anime characters while others resemble Instagram models. The presence of eroticism permeates not only through the deliberate poses of these figures, but also in a color palette that bears the imprint of Francis Bacon's influence. The artist mixes and layers a wide spectrum of painting styles and symbols, engaging with the creative histories that inform his work, from Edouard Manet to John Currin to contemporary trap culture.
For McFarlane, the act of painting is a meditative process – he allows his thoughts, longings, and emotions to guide his visual language. Rather than meticulously planning compositions, his paintings emerge from the dynamic flow of the creative process. Figurative elements frequently blur and dissolve, gradually transitioning into complete abstraction, intentionally defying a singular interpretation. His paintings are not detached observations; they are painterly extrapolations marked by a sense of personal implication, as a Black artist navigating complex social climates and conversing with art history. These works elicit a visceral reaction, and in their intentional ambiguity they provoke a contemplative engagement that defies easy resolution.
Kenrick McFarlane (b. 1990, Chicago) received his BFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago and studied in the MFA program at University of California, Los Angeles. Recent solo exhibitions include Naked & Famous, M+B, Los Angeles; ANIMA, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa; and Recent Paintings, ORNOT Gallery, Chicago. McFarlane’s work was also recently exhibited as a part of Dwelling at Canal Projects, New York; A Love Letter to LA at Phillips Gallery, Los Angeles; 27 Young Americans at PM/AM Gallery, London, UK; SKIN MASKS at Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago; and Shattered Glass at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, Los Angeles. Kenrick McFarlane lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.