Pace Gallery opens Kylie Manning's first exhibition in Switzerland
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Pace Gallery opens Kylie Manning's first exhibition in Switzerland
Kylie Manning is a painter based in Brooklyn, New York.

GENEVA.- Pace Gallery announces You Into Me, Me Into You, Kylie Manning’s first exhibition in Switzerland. Conceived as a sister exhibition to her forthcoming prestigious collaboration with the acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon for the New York City Ballet, Manning presents a suite of new, highly ambitious paintings in her idiosyncratic style. Where her paintings in New York will serve as a landscape for Wheeldon’s ballet and inspiration for the costumes, which Manning is also collaborating on, the body of work on display in Geneva brings Manning’s deeply felt cast of characters into centre stage.

Manning’s collaboration with Wheeldon will premiere on May 4 at Lincoln Center as part of the New York City Ballet’s annual Spring Gala, with additional performances on May 6, 9, 13, and 16.

Rooted in the wild, sweeping landscapes of her childhood split between Alaska and Mexico – and later, her time spent working on commercial fishing boats – Manning’s large-scale paintings are a riot of colour, energy, and diaphanous figures. Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, Manning deftly moves between delicate washes of colour, precise lines, and heavy impasto in order to bring her figures into being. The tangled bodies move through the dreamlike space in quasi-theatrical compositions that recall the grand history paintings of nineteenth century artists such as Théodore Géricault, Winslow Homer, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Indeed, Manning employs a technique used by Old Master painters including Johannes Vermeer in which countless layers of oils are applied to the canvas’s surface in order to absorb and refract light.

Manning’s confident, powerful paintings hold the tension between the microscopic and macroscopic, drawing viewers into her realm. Reading as neither masculine or feminine, figures emerge from luminous swathes of colour; hands merging into faces, arms into stomachs, guiding the eye around the canvas. As one of five children, ideas of playfulness, intimacy, and chaos within family dynamics are central to Manning’s subject matter. She often uses her own hands as a visual reference in her painting because they are the double of her mother’s, permeating the works with a clandestine tenderness.

Pareidolia, the brain’s tendency to see images in ambiguous patterns – such as a face in clouds – is a central concern of Manning’s approach to painting. In Still be on my feet (2023) the figure’s raised hand contains the subtle hint of a nose and mouth, confounding viewer’s expectations. In this way, Manning leaves interpretation open and subverts the ways in which her paintings are experienced, allowing viewers a closer and more active engagement with the works.

Contrasting warm and cool tones, Manning’s atmospheric paintings conjure the precise sensation of a moment in time. The improvised compositions presented in the exhibition hover on the edge of collapse into abstraction, Manning’s nimble handling of paint bringing them back from the brink. She likens this idea to music and thereby dance, particularly ballet, in which bodies are suspended in air at once vulnerable and unshakeable. Borrowing the title from a line in Verklärte Nacht, the 1896 poem by writer Richard Dehmel that inspired Arnold Schoenberg's string sextet, You Into Me, Me Into You speaks to the ideas of metamorphosis and hope.

Kylie Manning (b. 1983, Juneau, Alaska) is a painter based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is heavily informed by the atmospheres, latitudes, and colours present in the various geographies of her childhood. Using brushwork, light, and balance, the artist captures moments within her personal history, such as her time working on Alaskan seining vessels and memories of surfing in Mexico. Through her practice, Manning re-contextualises the concept of traditionally gendered “masterpieces" with an eye toward contemporary feminism, and her visual lexicon is as much in conversation with J.M.W. Turner and Frans Hals as it is Ruth Asawa and Berthe Morisot. Manning's oil paint compositions centre on ethereal, gestural, and genderless figures within expansive, disparate landscapes. She purposefully leaves the origin, gender, and raison d'être of the forms within her paintings up to interpretation, allowing the viewer to step into her world, yet form their own reading of the work. The resulting works vibrate with energy and light, flickering before the viewer's eyes.

Manning explores the balance between figuration and abstraction through expert draftsmanship, painting, markmaking, and a refined technical process. Within her painting practice, the artist begins each body of work as a family, stretching the surfaces and employing rabbit skin glue, which primes the canvas and provides a buoyant backdrop. She spends a great deal of time spreading oil ground (a material used to prime oil paintings) with a palette knife, before sanding down each layer, building a relationship to each individual piece before she brings in colour. She is acutely aware of the scale, energy, and groove of the linen before ‘beginning’. When Manning eventually incorporates colour, it begins through a hierarchy of refracted light. She grinds pure pigments with safflower oil and starts with a Sumi-e-like wash using broad chip brushes and paint rollers to create thin but wide strokes. While still wet, she takes a rag and begins to pull the composition out by wiping and ripping away saturated areas. Eventually sketching in paint with loaded brushes, she reiterates or shifts the composition. Each layer is separated with a slightly thicker layer of safflower and walnut oil to refract light, a technique common with Dutch Baroque painters. Orchestrating ethereal sketches of landscapes and figures, she balances delicate whirlwinds of colour with a contemporary feminist sense of humour. Manning’s works feel simultaneously thin and radiant, light glowing from within the paintings themselves.

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