Critique of Marko Stout's Chelsea Girls Exhibition

Marko Stout is a multimedia artist based in New York city, known for his fierce depictions of the contemporary urban female. In his newest "Chelsea Girls" series, the women are alienated from their abstracted city backgrounds, remaining unaware of the industrial grit and fast-paced energy of their surroundings. Ultimately, Marko's graffiti-eqsue imagery and raw use of color capture the spirit and dynamism of city life with a fervor that is almost aggressive in its approach. Marko offers a window into the essence of city life, while blending in a burst of female vigor. As we are plunged into this obscure scene, we become lost in the electric colors and dynamic brushstrokes, which ignite against the women's organic sensuality. The resulting impact is a stunning contemporary spectacle.

Marko Stout innovatively subverts mainstream conceptions of female sexuality with his current series "Chelsea Girls". In his multi-media series, Marko abandons the cliché of idealizing beauties as serene and attainable in accordance with male-dominated fantasies. His series opposes this convention by depicting young females as fierce and independent within their contemporary urban contexts. Each of Marko's fresh-faced girls reveal a strong, unwavering presence, while appearing oppositional to the spectator's gaze. With their confrontational stare and unwelcoming body language, they all undermine the male's observer and remain in control of their sexuality.

In his piece "Chelsea Girl no. 05" Marko defies dominant depictions of women by replacing the elements of provocation and nudity with ferocity and urban trendiness. The girl's intense glare and oppositional body language indicates her ownership over her body, rising above the clutches of the male's glance. Despite her empowerment, she is still youthful and soft, traits that are conventionally pleasing. Consequently, Marko shows that a woman's lushness and desirability can still transmit a defiant vigor that rises beyond the limits of the male gaze.

The same exchange of authority is shown in the piece, "Chelsea Girl no. 16". Here, the young woman maintains an aura of strength through her closed-off body language and eerie stare, indicating control over her sexuality. This power is accentuated through her rugged urban clothes and disheveled hair, which reveals a roughness that makes her unattainable to male onlookers. The background imagery enhances this social dynamic. The abstract textures evoke the bustling flow of the city, and the urban colors layered on top of the woman also convey movement, making her appear as fleeting. She ultimately retains an impenetrable façade, which acts as armor against the male's domineering view.

Marko's piece "Chelsea Girl no. 03" offers a more sensual portrayal of the female urban Goth, a contemporary subculture inspired by rock music. Her skull patterned shirt and grotesque dripping eye makeup depicts one of the most hostile personas in the series. This raw display of emotion is intensified by the electric brushstrokes smeared across the piece. Overall, the scene conveys an expressive potency that overwhelms the acquisitive gaze of the male spectator.

Standing as one of the most overtly erotic in the series, "Chelsea Girl no. 19" offers a twist on the motif of female empowerment. Unlike the other women, this one is exposed and does not make eye contact with the viewer. Yet, despite her provocative appearance, she is not submissive to the male gaze. Her edgy leather jacket and sly look conveys a resilient energy that makes her impenetrable to desirous glances. Moreover, the quick energetic brushwork obscures the woman's nudity and also suggests the momentary nature of the scene. For this reason, the male viewer cannot fully access the woman. The piece, therefore, acts as a celebration of women as opposed to an objectification. Finally, Marko adds his name in bright letting, which almost acts as another barrier distancing the male onlooker from the woman.

"Chelsea Girl no. 11"reveals Marko's earlier work, which reveals the same motif of female empowerment; however his approach here is slightly different. In this piece, we are not emerged within the same contemporary world, which is used in the newer works to enhance the female's strength and independence. We are also unable to see the girl's body language. Instead, she reveals a ghostly stare and is dressed in white lace, giving her an innocent softness. Nevertheless, her expression maintains a stern dignity that makes her unconquerable to the male spectator. By confronting the male spectator so poignantly, Marko is able to undermine dominant notions about female sexuality.

As he depicts the females with a unparalleled sensitivity to their nature, he unveils an obscure mysticism in each woman. Ultimately, these women remind us that despite the intrinsic softness of their youth, they will not be overpowered by the male onlooker.

Lindsay Beliveau, MFA Earned her MFA degree from UCLA and is a curator of modern art at the Filed Gallery in Los Angles and independent art jounalist.

This article was published on 09 Jun 2014 and has been viewed 862 times
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