Buttnekkid Bares It All at MuzeuMM

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Opening tonight at MuzeuMM, Buttnekkid is two artists’ take on nude painting. It is also a phenomenal show, as graceful as it is non-judgmental, lush and visceral.

As the show’s description notes “We are all born naked – and artists either reveal or obfuscate this fact when creating figurative work.” This show is all about the reveal.

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Above, show curation in progress

A reveal which oddly enough still makes some people uncomfortable. When Facebook frowns at posting something that even resembles a nipple,  it’s only too obvious that the puritanical purveyors of “morality” are still very much with us.

So it is worth noting that as well as being beautiful work, the two solo shows that comprise Buttnekkid, curated by Mat Gleason, are also making a bold statement as to the beauty of the body and our views toward it.

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Lena Moross pairs same-sex couples in intimate yet unsentimental poses, some clothed, some bare. Anna Stump critiques the ways in which our society seems to fear flesh as much as it is obsessed by it. 

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Both artists have a uniquely lovely way of expressing intimacy,  of revealing the body even as they portray this form as exactly what it is – completely natural.

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Stump, left; Moross, right

Moross says “I was working on my new series on figures and Anna saw it. She said she had figure paintings too, and proposed we do a double show at MuzeuMM.”

Because the two artists create entirely different works, they knew that their figure paintings would not mesh, and should stand as two separate, thematically twinned exhibitions at the gallery. 

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“I worked my usual way: staging and taking photos from real people and then painting from them. Anna did her take on the 1970s era pornography industry.  Basically we did our own thing in our studios,” Moross explains.

Stump reveals “About a year ago, Lena saw an older figurative painting I’d done with a heavy grid structure of drips. She really liked it and asked if I’d do an exhibition with her of nudes. I said, of course!”

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According to Stump, “Lena and I are similar in the way we approach art making. We are both extremely confident with our technical skills and understanding of the body represented in 2D, which frees us to make work that is actually less concerned about beauty and more about monstrousness.”

For Stump, the inspiration for her subject matter came from a stack of Playboy magazines she borrowed from her studio mate. “I grew up in the 1970s, exposed to nudes from Playboy, courtesy of an uncle. I’m charmed by the awkward, pre-Photoshop poses, the tans, the naiveté, the non-surgically enhanced bodies. The porn is almost wholesome. The male sketches—earnest, goofy—are also referenced from the magazine ads and editorials,” she relates.

Gleason notes that the show is about the “female gaze and agency…of disrobing.” He says that nudity in art received a bad reputation when the models were all women and the painters men. But with two women creating this work, the tables have turned.

Lena Moross uses nudity as a semiotic device within a psychological drama while Anna Stump pushes the boundaries and politics of professional eroticism…curating them has been a dream.”

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Experience that dream for yourself Saturday, 8-11 p.m. at MuzeuMM, 4817 W. Adams in mid-city. The show runs through
– Genie Davis; photos provided by artists and curator

For the Love of Carmine – Lena Moross at MuzeuMM

Artist Lena Moross, subject Carmine, artist's friend Natasha Pushkin

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Above, opening night at MuzeuMM – For the Love of Carmine

We’ve written about Lena Moross’  before, the passionate artist originally from St. Petersberg who has brought classical training and an impressionistic style to her now very-LA work. Running through July 11 at MuzeuMM, Moross’ large scale watercolor portraits in “For the Love of Carmine,” details Carmine, a transgender man that the artist met 5 years ago on a Hollywood street.

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Roses, wine, the delicate grace of an intensely female subject inside a bulky male body – these are the images Moross has captured with a magical bent. her paintings are sensuous, voluptuous, depicting a man/cocoon housing his female/butterfly.

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Moross says “Old European cities have areas where children play in the dirt and sometimes discover things like a rhinestone, or piece of foil, a remanent of something years or maybe even centuries past. They were treasures I would gather that I discovered. Even though they were found in dirt, after cleaning and loving these things, bringing them to light, each would reveal beauty and stories again and again. So for me, Carmine initially was one of these precious beautiful found rhinestones.”

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Carmine himself, above, in red.

She found her subject beautiful, and has created beautiful works about him. “Ultimately, it’s my decision what is beautiful or not.”

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Trust us – she made a profoundly lovely choice, here.

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Above, musicians Ketchup Soup, entertained the opening night crowd.

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Above and below, center, MuzeuMM founder Mishelle Moross; with below left artist Francisco Alvarado.

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MuzeuMM is located at 4817 West Adams Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90016

  • Genie Davis; all photos by Jack Burke

Lena Moross: For the Love of Carmine

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Born in St. Petersberg, Russia, artist Lena Moross is a true force in the Los Angeles art scene. With the characteristic vibrance she shows in so much of her lush work, she’s tackling a trenchant subject: what being transgender really means. In her upcoming solo exhibition, For the Love of Carmine, opening June 11th at MuzeuMM, Moross creates a social narrative.

Her beautifully colorful, finely detailed, impressionistic watercolor work is used here to create an immersive experience of what it’s like to grow up as a transgender male in the early post-war years. Her large-scale paintings demand repeat viewings: the very feminine, voluptuous curves and her emphasis on fluid strokes and shapes create a richly fertile landscape to explore what it’s like to be a woman inside a man’s body. A staged video is also included in the exhibit, which creates a deep dialog between the subject of her works here, Carmine, and the artist herself, as an untold narrative spills forth.

Lena Moross with Carmine, Carmine in Repose
Above, Carmine Messina with the artist, Lena Moross

The artist was captivated by the real Carmine Messina, whom she met on a Hollywood street corner three years ago. Tall, heavy-set, and middle-aged, Messina was heavily made up and dressed in a woman’s black coat, fishnet stockings, mid-calf boots and sporting a long, jet-black wig. Moross was struck by Carmine’s gentle demeanor and his obliviousness to the effect he was causing. The artist introduced herself and began a conversation that led to recorded conversations, videos, photographs, paintings, and sketches. Using these resources, she set about exploring, through her art, the ordeal of being transgender in the late 1940s, born into a middle class San Fernando Valley family.

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Her revealing, sensual paintings tell a long hidden story, one that exposes and gently honors what had been concealed and riddled with shame. While social change is slowly creating a space for transgendered people, their long hidden stories can be difficult to reveal and depict. Moross tells Messina’s story with dignity, humor, and a translucent grace, qualities which are representative of all of Moross’ recent work.

Her pieces have a dream-like, almost floating quality, their fluid lines and the incorporation of floral images and colors making her work as intense as it is delicate.

Lena Moross, Carmine after Degas

In this exhibition, Messina, clad in a simple aqua smock, poses in feminine grace, shy and almost transcending his girth; or Moross positions him nude, with a jubilant, blooming bouquet of red roses masking his genitalia.

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Whether raising a glass of ruby wine, reclining against the coiled cocoon of a red quilt, or performing opera in a yellow tunic, the figure that Moross captures is at once bulky and beautiful, poised and awkward, always fluid and feminine. She casts what it means to be a woman – that particular state of grace, longing, and sensuous shape, in a fresh light.

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Moross fuses male and female, form and the softest of function. You can almost feel the draped cloths, smell and touch the soft rose petals. It’s no surprise the Moross is skilled at this kind of fusion. Moving from Russia to the U.S., she studied classical art at the State Academy of Art in Russia. In America, she studied at the Pasadena Art Center College of Design as a student of Peter Lyashkov, earned her master’s at Cal-Arts, and was a student of John Baldessari and John Borofsky.

Her fine art skills and her wonderfully interpretive, fantastical bent have meshed just as surely and resiliently as her international heritage has fused with a strong, brash sense of American freedom.

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In For the Love of Carmine, Moross expresses freedom, repression, fantasy, joy, and a spirit that longs to break loose from its confines. A truly masterful solo show, by an artist who is taking flight with story and shape.

MuzeuMM
4817 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Opening reception June 11, 7-11pm

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Shoebox PR

Welcome Winged Things: Bird at Muzeumm

Curator Mishelle Moross, and artist Lena Moross

Benefiting the Audubon Center at Debs Park, winged creativity soared around the opening of BIRD this past Saturday at MuzeuMM, in a show curated by Mishelle Moross, left, that included works by artist Lena Moross, right, her mother.

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Many of the artists created works especially for the show, whose theme, naturally enough, is birds. Contributing artists include:

Noah Saterstrom, Eve Wood, Lena Wolek, Joe Wolek, Anna Stump,Cherie Benner Davis, Cynthia Minet, Greg Rose, Siobhan McClure, Lena Moross, Becky Stafford, Collin Stafford, Bibi Davidson, Christian Kasperovitz, Lori Pond, Eva Ryan, Sam Smith, Malka Nedivi, Sylviana Gallini, and Sabina Rose Derick.

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According to curator Mishelle Moross,  the show’s inspiration came from artist Anna Stump.  Stump relates “Artist Lena Moross saw my ‘Bird Terrarium’ paintings at the Brewery Artwalk last fall, which inspired her and curator Mishelle to produce a bird-themed exhibition at Muzeumm.” Stump’s work, above, creates a three-dimensional impression of birds barely contained, freedom and constraint, and a pull to motion.

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Artist Malka Nedivi, above, gives viewers a wild and wonderful mythological bird. A painter, sculptor, and collage artist, Nedivi says that all of her work is inspired by her mother, and both her parents’ previously unknown past as Holocaust survivors. Nedivi’s work uses a great deal of wood and fabric.

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Collin and Becky Stafford’s monumental bird costume above also appeared in a video installation accompanying it. See the video at:  https://vimeo.com/album/3660210

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The rich, warm colors of Bibi Davidson’s works, above heightened the whimsical, fairy-tale quality of the artist’s contributions to the show.

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Born in Tel Aviv, Davidson creates not just compelling color, but an entire world with recurring characters, amusing narratives, and mysterious glimpses of the interlocking worlds of childhood wonder and adult insight.

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Curator Mishelle Moross contributed her own piece to the exhibition, the towering gold Birdhouse, above.

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Eva Ryan’s riveting and haunting pieces above are examples of the artist’s blissful obsession with birds. In many cases, birds appear as a stand-in for human longing, emotion, and self-recognition in Ryan’s work.

Below, Lena Wolek’s exquisitely detailed ceramic installation City Bird- in Life, can be disassembled for purchase, with each stunning cup a steal at $40 each.

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Lena Moross created the pieces below solely for this exhibition, inspired by her own somewhat chaotic feelings about being a young grandmother as well as a wife, mother, and artist. “I sometimes feel like a headless burning chicken, so that is what I created in my art for this show.” She was also inspired by the twinned ideas of birds and rebirth from Russian folk tales and the writings of Vladimir Nabokov, she attests. F23C7859

Below, curator Mishelle Moross with her mother, artist Lena Moross, looking not in the least like a headless chicken.

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Lena Moross took us on a tour of her studio adjacent to the gallery, for a look at a new series of works. Here, the influence of bird imagery still stands – there is the feeling that the woman could, if only she had wings, fly from the wall.F23C7864

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A darker look at creatures of flight rises from Lori Pond’s photograph of a taxidermied bird. Pond uses both the camera itself and her post-processing tools to paint a full range of images and emotions through color, light, movement, and texture.F23C7868

Above, Cynthia Minet’s soaring eagles dance. Below, the work of Noah Saterstrom, which creates its own avian mythology.

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Artist Eve Wood, below, is an inveterate bird lover, and her birds appear to share space with their humans through grace.F23C7872

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Below, Cherie Benner Davis stands beside painting she created for the show. “It was nice to have someone give me an assignment and I could get creative with it,” Davis says. Primarily an oil painter who combines flat abstraction with highly representational imagery, Davis’s bright birds appear to be in conversation with the viewer. F23C7884 The show runs through January 31st, and 40% of the exhibition’s proceeds will be donated to the Audubon Society at Debs Park. Go to support flights of all kinds – from that of feathered friends to the flights of fancy and wonder depicted in this terrific gallery.

MuzeuMM is located at 4817 West Adams Blvd. in Los Angeles, and is open from 11-5 M/F or by appointment on the weekend. Contact Name: Mishelle Moross, curator at 323-979-3136. www.muzeumm.com

  • Genie Davis; ALL PHOTOS – Jack Burke; Anna Stump courtesy of ShoeboxPR