Claudia Bitrán “White Shoes at 89 Greene”

signs and symbols

poster for Claudia Bitrán “White Shoes at 89 Greene”
[Image: Claudia Bitrán "White Shoes" (detail) (2022)]

This event has ended.

89 Greene at signs and symbols presents Claudia Bitrán. White Shoes is at its essence an ongoing archival project in which the artist photographs young people wearing white footwear and then translates these into drawings, paintings and installations. Curated by Dr. Kathy Battista, the exhibition at 89 Greene consists of a group of Bitrán’s sculptural paintings on wood.

While traveling, as well as at home in NYC, Bitrán noticed that certain groups of people tend to wear white shoes to elevate them, metaphorically and physically. The artist has witnessed this phenomenon around the world, in particular within gentrifying areas, tourist spots, the NYC subway and global art fairs. As any sneakerhead will admit, a clean pair of trainers, especially white, gives a feeling of empowerment, like levitating as one walks. White shoes have another quality that is less ecstatic: they are also emblematic of privilege. Transcending cultures, white shoes signify a leisure class of elite people, with money to travel and burn. Many of Bitrán’s subjects are tourists, exploring the city alone or in groups. Coincidentally, most of the young people she snaps are also looking into their phones. Unstaged and informal, the figures are like animals in a safari: they are seen going about their lives without any posing or looking at the camera, another rare phenomenon in today’s selfie-obsessed world.

The scale of Bitrán’s figures is Victorian doll sized — larger than a traditional Barbie yet still diminutive enough to be held in your hand, creating a feeling of omnipotence in the viewer. This size is also how the artist sees many of these teens: from afar, their perspective is much smaller. The cut-out figures are rendered in watercolor, pastel, pencil, crayon and clay on wood.

The exhibition at 89 Greene includes single and small groupings of paintings. In some areas the person is rendered precisely, while other parts are impressionistic, mimicking the way we see strangers moving through cities: some details stick in the mind while others are not memorable. Two women are painted in trompe l’oeil style as if standing in front of a subway advertisement. Other single figures gaze into their phones, the glow from which radiates both the figure and the painting. The isolation between these figures is palpable. While the world grows more connected through digital culture, many of us retreat into our devices for work as well as relaxation and comfort, resulting in less real-life engagement. As in fashion choices, the digital world also reflects a growing divide among the wealthy and the poor: it seems iPhones and white shoes could be interchangeable.

*Please note that all 89 Greene exhibitions are on view at the gallery’s location at 249 East Houston Street; the name of the project is only in reference to Jack Smith’s historic address.

claudia bitrán (b. 1986 USA / Chile) works primarily through painting and video. She has exhibited individually at Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York; Walter Storms Galerie, Munich; Spring Break Art Show, New York; Muhlenberg College Gallery and Practice Gallery, Pennsylvania; the Brooklyn Bridge Park; Roswell Museum and Art Center, New Mexico; and Museo de Artes Visuales, Santiago, Chile. Bitrán currently lives and works in Brooklyn and teaches in the Painting Departments at Rhode Island School of Design, Pratt Institute, Sarah Lawrence College and the School of International Art in Beijing.



from September 07, 2022 to October 29, 2022

Opening Reception on 2022-09-07 from 18:00 to 20:00


Claudia Bitrán

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