The American artist Michelle Raw­lings com­bines in her works two dif­ferent speeds of generating images. They are mostly created through a time-​consuming, pain­staking process modeled on traditional studio pain­ting. But their intimate scale and specific themes—from pixelated abs­tract com­positions and coloristically refined monochromes to the iconography of gir­lish Instagram shots—keeps pace with the con­tem­porary speed of the Inter­net and social media. The two inter­penetrate: a sense of the sin­gularity and clas­sic nobility of modern art and a fascination with the non-​hierarchical, spon­taneous and fetishistic con­sump­tion of cul­ture peculiar to teenage girls. By strip­ping the former of its sub­limity and impar­ting gravity to the latter, Raw­lings seeks in her work a new, con­tem­porary female iden­tity: creative, sub­jec­tive, intuitive, and per­fec­tly at home in the digital world. Her intimate pain­ting com­bines visual bril­liance and mul­tiplicity with reticent contemplation.


The main element of Girl Talk is an instal­lation prepared specially for the Raster space from a range of objects of varying sizes modeled on the struc­ture of room dividers. Their intimate scale, from 10 inches to over 5 feet high, under­lines the idiosyn­cratic and imprac­tical nature of these items. The pain­tings they’re com­posed of are made of silk, hand-​embroidered, pain­ted and prin­ted, in the spirit of a diary of images. The exhibition is com­pleted with charac­teristic, small easel pain­tings by Raw­lings, a con­tinuation of her intimate color studies—what she calls “somewhere in between minimalist grid-​like com­positions and digital, pixelated visual interference.”


Raw­lings describes her inspirations and wor­king methods, and the poten­tial impact of her work:

“I grew up col­lec­ting pic­tures from magazines—a com­pul­sion that has evolved into the same prac­tice via the Inter­net. We are now wit­nes­sing a generation of people who borrow found imagery online to speak for them­selves. Appropriated con­tent becomes diaristic and per­sonal through the acquisition, or re-​posting, of it. It serves a new per­sonal nar­rative for a dif­ferent iden­tity, a dif­ferent archive, a dif­ferent sub­jec­tive interest. The line between what could be con­sidered ‘original’ and what isn’t is more produc­tively blur­red than ever.

My work is hinged on an anxiety between an exploration of process-​based pain­ting and an interest in a Tumblr-​like sequence created by an accumulation of images. I make smal­ler pieces that imitate established pain­ting genres, or various histories that feel like they are everywhere at once and easily acces­sible. The anxiety of how much is available makes it seem antithetical to emphasize or insist on one kind of image.

I feel the cul­ture that the Inter­net and social media has farmed is giving women a place where we can express our­selves with more agency and creative con­trol. The result is nuan­ced and creative voices we’ve never seen or had before. I hope my work is an exten­sion of that new con­sciousness and visibility.”

2017 exhibitions

Michelle Rawlings


Opening on Saturday, May 27, 6-9 p.m.