I hated Gina Beavers’s paintings the first time I saw them in MoMA PS1’s Greater New York in 2015. Detested. I was revolted and repulsed by their thickened physicality. Completely turned-off. I wanted to rip her depictions of rippled abs and bloody meat right off the wall. However, I have certainly come around in the intervening years, fascinated by my initial visceral disgust and coming to attribute it to some form of aesthetic genius on Beavers’s part. That strong reaction is evidence of Beavers’s talent for harnessing the power of bad taste. Even I, a believer in trash and tastelessness, had to get over some of my aesthetic hang-ups. And thank god. Isn’t that refreshing to go beyond your limits? An overwhelmingly negative response is always better than boredom.
What really seemed to do it for me was an image of Beavers’s new painting Corn Nails, which I peeped on Instagram in her current exhibition The Life I Deserve at MoMA PS1. The painting features a tactile depiction of a disembodied hand sporting nails painted to look like ears of corn, including a viscous splash of butter. Naturally, these corn nails are also gripping a corn cob. It was like someone got a manicure at a local fair, between the petting zoo and the unregulated rides. Not only was I converted, I was in love.
The Life I Deserve is equally a vision, filled with paintings of lips covered in tennis and soccer balls, egg nails, a cake shaped to look like a torso (with someone slicing the butt as if it was an episode of Hannibal), Van Gogh’s Starry Night made out of bacon, and the cover of The Rolling Stones’s Sticky Fingers with some serious camel toe. The show hits on Beavers’s main obsessions, namely the pictures of food, makeup tutorials, weird memes, and desirable bodies we stare at all day on the Internet. If the works are grotesque, it’s only because Beavers transforms what we see on the flat digital screen into tangible paintings that invade our space.
And since Beavers sources her images from the Internet, it only felt right to respond in kind by reviewing the show through another digital language: GIFs. So “read” on: