Theresa Pfarr’s troubled fashionistas at Carbon 14

Carbon 14 is back, a phoenix regularly rising from its own carbon dust. The gallery has moved to Kensington from Old City, and once again the people behind it, Katerina Lydon-Warner and Andrew Warner, are happy to think big thoughts!

Theresa Pfarr, Post-Op, 2010, oil on canvas, 38 x 38 inches Paintings from artist’s web site at

Their first big thought this time is their new address, at 3239 Amber St. The 45- x 65-foot space, semi raw, semi fixed up,  can hold large installations as well as paintings.

Theresa Pfarr paintings installed in Carbon 14’s ambitious new space. Painting front right (pink background) is K. Moss Leviathan, 2007, o/c, 49 x 49″

The other big thought is their August show of work by Theresa Pfarr. Pfarr’s paintings are of dissolving young women who look a lot like the artist…but not quite. The works talk about fashion and bodies and unattainable ideals–the confusion of not fitting, not meeting the cultural prescriptions, and the horror of what those prescriptions are. The scale of these works is an overpowering 72 inches tall, to a modest 12 inches square. Yet the small ones have as much impact as the large ones!

Theresa Pfarr, Must Haves, 2010, oil on canvas, 72 x 32 inches

In her search for identity and self-acceptance, Pfarr exchanges Lisa Yuskavage’s pneumatic Playboy blondes for brooding brunette fashion victims. Yuskavage’s trompe l’oeil glowing surfaces contrast with Pfarr’s German Expressionist grotesqueness. But the troubling issues are similar, the various distortions of limbs and proportions two sides of the same coin. And the sense of dissolving, the loss of solidity in the paintings (this doesn’t show up in the photos so much), applies to both artists’ work, although they achieve this with different painting techniques.

Theresa Pfarr, Nose Bleeder, 2011, oil on canvas, 14 x 14 inches

The title Nose Bleeder, on a distorted face, brought to my mind Yuskavage’s  Asspicker titles, But the work also communicates its Yuskavage connections in the glowing yellow backgrounds of Post-Op, Must Haves, and Seraphim, for example.

The paintings evoke fashion cut-out collages and photographs of models. From K. Moss Leviathan to Gushing, these are ironic and not pretty pictures of a life on the front page and off.

Carbon 14 crudites at opening. Back left is Shit Brown Perch, back center is Garden Delight, each 50 x 50inches each

Some of Pfarr’s images seem safer than others–almost fashion photog./portrait safe–as in Garden Delight and Shit Brown Perch. But stay with them long enough and if the titles don’t get you, the paint will.

Pfarr showed at Grizzly Grizzly in May 2010 and this show at Carbon 14 will remain up through September.

What a great way to get back to Carbon 14!


Carbon 14
3239 Amber Street
215 923 2352
by appointment