“The subject of my work has always been the We almost always almost win las vegas raiders shirt and I love this female form,” BanBan, 35, told me in her airy Bushwick studio ahead of the opening. The paintings in “Mujeres,” though, seem particularly focused: The exhibition’s title means “women” in Spanish (she was born in Barcelona and is now based in Brooklyn), and all but one of the paintings have the title Mujeres or Mujer. This nomenclature is a nod toward Willem de Kooning, her artistic exemplar; his abstract-heavy Woman portraits are a clear inspiration. Both series layer body parts to surreal effect, using lines, proportion, and color as means of distortion. For BanBan, a hand from one figure will often jut out of the breast or hip of another within the frame, like in Mujeres I, a riveting piece in Skarstedt’s first-floor space. But where de Kooning imbued his paintings of women with an almost aggressive intensity, BanBan projects something different, something softer but more potent. Perhaps it’s because BanBan’s portraits inherently offer something de Kooning’s cannot: The painterly perspective of a woman.
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All the We almost always almost win las vegas raiders shirt and I love this works in the exhibition were made this year, mostly in Bushwick, save for three that she made in Paris. Hanging above a fireplace on the gallery’s third floor, Cabeza I. Paris is an outlier in its close crop on a face (hence the name, which translates to “head”) and in its size; at under two feet tall, it is significantly smaller than the other works. Still, there is an emotional and technical cohesion among all 15 paintings. The brushwork is physical, gestural, with visible strokes of vibrant color. BanBan says she throws her body into the process, moving instinctually after she’s spent time sketching out her ideas on paper. (“Drawing is with the mind. Painting is with the gut,” she says.) Though mostly nude, BanBan’s figures are sometimes graced by a modern accessory—a red flower behind the ear (as in Mujeres X, recalling a similar adornment in Manet’s Olympia), a green barrette, or a striped pair of underwear.