Stills from the Migratory Ballad
June 12 – August 20, 2021
Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to present Stills from the Migratory Ballad, featuring paintings by Raya Terran. The exhibition will open on Wednesday, June 23 and will be on view through Friday, August 20, 2021. This is the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery.
Raya Terran paints desolate landscapes filled with fleshy humanoid figures, engaged in mundane activities that belie their seeming monstrosity: climbing, swimming, photographing, hugging, hunching, trampolining. They are perpetually in motion, as if existing solely in the present, with no sense of past departure or future arrival. Their surroundings range from distinctly human environments of car-filled highways and tiled showers to nondescript plains and oceans; yet the figures appear equally indifferent to both.
This indeterminacy of space, time, and individual motive reduces any sense of “plot” to mere rote action: the paintings reject narrative. For instance, as one figure ascends to the top of a craggy cliff, what ought to be a triumphal victory is cut short by bare biological function. Puking and heaving, the figure is demoted from bipedalism to an animalistic crouch. Such scenes are starkly humorous – but never mocking. Terran has a deeply intimate relationship with each of her works, cradling painted wooden blocks between her palms and tacking up un-stretched canvases like drying hides. Pale buttocks and backsides are created through a gentle process of removal, scratching away paint to reveal the white gesso base beneath. Terran’s attention to materiality is influenced by medieval devotional objects, where reverence emerges out of tactile interaction.
The artist’s softly droll gaze holds distinct parallels to the narrational style of American folk ballads, where acts of extreme violence and heartbreak are relayed to audiences in a seemingly disengaged, matter-of-fact tone. “In these songs,” Terran explains, “you see what these characters are doing and feeling, but you are usually not given a context of who they are, independent of the moment they are in. It's like these people exist only in the context of what time is doing to them, but not as fixed identities. That's how I think of the living things in my paintings.”
Terran’s “living things” take on the appearance of humans yet are more akin to swarms of bees or flocks of birds: they move with a herd mentality, tracing indiscernible patterns of migration across tarred roads and overpasses. Viewers bear witness to their movement, even as they ultimately remain unknowable. Such motifs emerge from Terran’s itinerant childhood, driving across the continental United States, Alaska, and parts of Latin America, with her musician mother. Themes of motion and flight in Terran’s paintings allude to this upbringing, while also evoking the sensational thrill and solitude of being “on the road.”
Raya Terran was born in Marin County, CA, and spent her childhood in various states and countries: Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Mexico, and Guatemala. Terran eventually moved to New York, where she received her BFA in Fine Art from the Cooper Union. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
For more information, please contact Yossi Milo at 212.414.0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.