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The original Jezebel was a biblical queen notorious for convincing her husband to disavow the Hebrew god—and her eventual demise at the hands of her courtiers. Since the 20th century, the name is much more closely associated with “fallen women,” whose sexual appetites and seductive wiles lead otherwise “god-fearing” men astray. In her new series, Rita Ackermann explores this dark side of the madonna/whore continuum, of unapologetically powerful and sexual women, fully possessed and combat-ready.
Each of Ackermann’s three digital prints on canvas, currently on view at FARAGO, depict a nude woman, wearing only a hijab and brandishing a firearm. The images (shot by Richard Kern) have the distinct flavor of a fashion shoot. Staged before painted backgrounds, the resulting photos were then reworked repeatedly via photography, photocopying and painting before being printed onto canvas.
Women and war are both familiar subjects in Ackermann’s work. Her series of ballpoint pen works from the 90s depicted militaristic imagery including a portrait of the Unabomber. Although the headscarves and guns in these new works read easily as a politicized message in the age of ISIS, much more resonant are the strong assertions of female empowerment and self-possession. Through Ackermans’ seasoned and steady gaze these women inhabit an elevated plane, more soldier than Bond girl. Their nudity is alluring without diminishing the certainty that they are armed, dangerous and ready for a fight.
Rita Ackermann: JEZEBELS runs March 12-April 16, 2016 at FARAGO (224 W 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014)