I Think We’re Alone Now presents multiple series of work by artist Robert Fontenot. The Nancy Paintings (2014) depict the movie star quality of First Lady Nancy Reagan during her husband’s presidency. Based largely on actual photo-ops staged by the White House during the Reagan years (Nancy on a hobby horse, Nancy with the Easter Bunny, Nancy sitting on Mr. T’s lap at Christmas) Fontenot uses the light wash of watercolor, evocative of 1980s home decor, to hone in on (Nancy) Reagan’s larger than life construction of self.
These paintings are accompanied by the installation, Womyn for Reagan (2014), Fontenot’s revisionist fantasy of a teenage girl’s obsessions turned towards the president, blending Ronald Reagan, teen heartthrobs, stickers, and other 80s ephemera to create a feminist-friendly president ripped straight from the pages of Tiger Beat.
An additional series of works in the gallery examine presidential politics from a more contemporary perspective: Losers (2008-ongoing) is a grid of small watercolor portraits of every presidential election loser in US history, from John Adams (lost to George Washington in 1789) to Mitt Romney. The site-specific Chain of Command (2014), a series of “official-looking” watercolor portraits, imagines the Weingart Gallery within the nexus of a national org chart that begins with President Obama and California State Senators, proceeds through local officials, the Occidental College board, President, and senior administrators, and ends with the artist himself, “supervised” by the curator of the exhibition.
In the second gallery, nine images from Fontenot’s continuing series Rise (2011-ongoing) combine bread dough sculpture, photography, and awkward sexual encounters to create a loose narrative of individuals attempting to understand the nature of desire. Each figure is first sculpted in bread dough and baked, Fontenot then filters these sculptures through traditional tropes of portraiture–frontal poses, blank backgrounds, texture-emphasizing lighting–to produce large-scale photographs that construct figures both empathetic and uncanny.
I Think We’re Alone Now is accompanied by a text by Jane McFadden.
This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Pasadena Art Alliance.