“Images of nude women are traditional in academic art. Paintings of naked women in museums are celebrated while topless women in public are considered indecent and taboo. By combining classical nudes with modern terminology and slang, I’m addressing how women’s bodies have been categorized and commodified”. - Bri Cirel
"T&A (HOT PINK)", Oil, 30" x 40", 2019. Sold - Krause Gallery
Combing bold text with photo realistic depictions of nude female forms, Cirel’s paintings deliver layers of information that compete for the viewers attention. Cirel explains, “I’m interested in how viewers see and prioritize layered imagery that is familiar in both graphic design and classical art.
I use text in my paintings to deliver commentary while also utilizing the font’s graphics qualities to distort or contain imagery”.
"SOME BODY II", Oil, 36" x 24", 2019. SOLD - Krause Gallery
"XXX II", Oil, 36" x 24", 2019. Available - Krause Gallery
“Deluxe” Article by -
Shana Nys Dambrot: Art critic, author, curator at LA Weekly Arts.
Painter Bri Cirel has questions. About language and control, sex and power, neurolinguistics, encoded cultural messaging, and why it always seems to be women’s bodies depicted in art. She’s not angry about it, she’s just interested. In her meticulously rendered, formally precise, chromatically sumptuous, and text-obscured oil paintings, Cirel asks those and other, thornier questions of her audience and herself. Whatever the answers are, in Cirel’s studio they are expressed in the dynamic interaction between text and image.
Cirel executes masterfully rendered images sourced from popular commercial culture alongside their art historical antecedents, interrupted and formally obscured by negative-space texts -- single words like POLITICS and SOME BODY -- that create their own shapes within the very composition they fracture. In the end, the word and image fuse and create a third variety of visual experience that is more than the sum of its parts. At the same time, the imagery is not random, it speaks to broad but urgent issues of female sexual empowerment, and the value of using existing language and visual tropes to decode entrenched social power structures.
It is both problematic and exceedingly effective to speak to people how they are already being spoken to -- to change not the lexicon, but rather, its purpose and deployment. In this regard, Cirel’s aesthetic, conceptual, and formal compatriots range from Betty Thompkins and Marilyn Minter to Barbara Kruger and the Guerrilla Girls -- and any female artist who has ever been shadow-banned for the content of their art, a fate that rarely befalls men working in the same vein. What is voyeurism, what is academics, what is fine art and who decides? Why, at a time when women’s voices are being raised more powerfully than ever, are they policed so differently from men’s in the public space? And whose values do media censors supposedly represent, anyway? See, questions.
Cirel didn’t start out making art about censorship, she was making quite formal studio painting about power. But Instagram, by deleting her account, made it about that. She got the message -- change your voice if you want to exist in our world -- and that was obviously unacceptable, and must somehow be addressed. But her practice runs deeper. Her studies in film and video editing means that splicing and juxtapositions come naturally to her. By examining how image, text, pattern, and the brain’s need to find meaning all converge on the perception of coded narratives, Cirel uncovers the embedded patriarchal structures that allow misogyny, power imbalances, and censorship itself to occur. Perhaps by hacking the trajectory of art history in her appealing voice
- Shana Nys Dambrot
Los Angeles 2019