The Naughty Grail • Tiffany Lafuente

May 13 to Jun 7, 2021 • Upstairs Gallery

In the exhibition The Naughty Grail, Tiffany Lafuente explores the dark core of the human psyche that underlies the society where we inhabit.

The artist puckishly inserts visual cues that evoke associations between historical and contemporary moments in order to foreground the age-long entanglements of art, life and capital. Rigorous portrayals of the interior, steady frontal compositions and movements created by light and shadow recall the traditions of portrait paintings, particularly of 16th to 18th century Europe, during which the new wealthy emerged from the worldwide mercantile system established along with the colonial aggression. Portrait painting was not just a way for the new patrons of art to record their appearances, but also to visualize, exhibit and assert their taste, wealth, status and power.

Lafuente’s paintings presented in the exhibition are the portraits of the players of hostile expansion of capitalism that alienate, exploit, destroy and eventually lead into self-destruction. Donning business attire, the anonymous entrepreneurs are self-involved without the awareness of the mischiefs done to them by the ghostly apparitions of the sitters in the classical portraits that they own. The women in the paintings open their mouths big and round mimicking the vinyl sex doll. The nude male model emerges from the painting and messes up with the businessman in his nap. Enlivened by the spirit of the king in the painting, the knight’s sword cuts in the game of power abuse.

Lafuente’s work pushes further the critique of global capitalism, digs deeper and exposes our voyeuristic curiosity triggered by the images of people immersed in sexual fantasies. It is a reminder that we are already grained in the narratives produced and manipulated by the ideologies of capitalist economic systems. The dense impasto robustly applied onto the canvas vandalizes the image as if to reflect the constant attempt striving to oppose, negotiate and rework on the dominant structures.

Mayumi Hirano