tirtzah bassel

Canon in Drag

October 27, 2022 to December 03, 2022
Opening reception October 27, 2022, 6pm - 8pm

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Slag Gallery proudly presents “Canon in Drag,” the third solo exhibition of artist Tirtzah Bassel at the gallery.

“Why have there been so few great male artists?” Canon in Drag imagines a Western art canon that evolved in a fictional world where the patriarchy never existed. It includes a series of paintings in the styles of iconic works, subverted through gender flipping and altered narratives. It asks: what would our world look like if we grounded it in a different set of origin stories? In response, it evokes a dramatic and self-conscious performance of gender and a re-envisioning of the so-called “Canon” of art history.

From an intersex Adam in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to a bearded Venus Barbata arising from the familiar seas of Boticelli’s masterpiece to the transformation of Picasso’s brothel of Avignon into an adult playhouse, Canon in Drag is an act of Worldbuilding using the familiar forms and tropes of art history. The alternate paradigm of gender dynamics provokes questions about our inherited notions of femininity, masculinity, power, parenthood, and the way we understand the role of the artist. An accompanying catalog, written in the voices of fictional art historians, wryly weaves together a revisionist historical narrative of the paintings and their themes.

Canon in Drag draws attention to the authority of the Canon while also reminding us that it is a human construction, built by the people with the most power and subject to the whims and directives of the dominant culture; there is nothing “natural” or inevitable about it. Putting the Canon in “drag,” which epitomizes camp, helps us laugh in the face of cultural authority and celebrate alternatives to “good” taste. It is an expression of optimism because if we can tell stories that help us imagine the world in a new way together, we can build a new world - one in which people no longer claim a paucity of great art by women.

About the artist: Tirtzah Bassel

Tirtzah Bassel was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1979. She studied drawing and painting at the Jerusalem Studio School, and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Boston University. Bassel has exhibited her work at Kunstverein Viernheim, Germany (2017), BRIC Arts Media Center, Brooklyn, NY (2016), FOR-SITE Foundation, California (2018), The Visual Arts Center, New Jersey (2015), and Open Source Gallery, Brooklyn (2015). Recent projects include Platform in partnership with David Zwirner Gallery (2022), Natasha Arselan Gallery, London, UK (2022), and Martha’s Contemporary, Austin, TX (2022).

Bassel’s work has been reviewed in Frieze Magazine, Hyperallergic, The Boston Globe, KQED, San Francisco Chronicle, The Art Newspaper, Huffington Post, Arts in Bushwick, Le Monde Diplomatique, Artspiel, Lilith Magazine, Al Jazeera English, and BBC Radio 4: Front Row among others.

Bassel is a faculty member in the Visual and Critical Studies Department at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and a resident artist in the Chashama Workspace Program in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Bassel is represented by Slag Gallery, New York and Galerie Thomas Fuchs, Stuttgart, Germany.

Additional images and information can be found on the artist's pages:

Tirtzah Bassel