It’s a little last-minute, but there’s a group show tonight called MIXTAPE 2 that opens at Michael David’s studio in Bushwick, which features a few works by an artist that just came across my radar: Jen Hitchings.

Some may know her as the manager of Pierogi Gallery on N. 9th in Williamsburg, which is where I’ve seen Hitchings many times at openings. When I say her work is new to me, I mean that I was unaware she made paintings and illustrations, which are a welcome surprise.

The first image below is titled “The House Party” and was conceived by Hitchings after attending an art installation where everything in the gallery was destroyed. Hitchings’ interest in this and other social gatherings fills much of the work.

There is a classical formality to her figures, especially in the paintings. Composed in scenes where the figures interact, even overlap in oval-like congregations, their bodies are often translucent, something Hitchings accomplishes by employing thin, almost ghostly sinews of paint. Dense, grainy backgrounds push right through the characters, as though their spirits linger long after departing the scene.

This lightness of being and social camaraderie in the figures recalls, at times, the proto-psychedelic style of 19th century German artist Fidus. Also contemporary German painter Albert Oehlen. The utopianism of Hitchings’ work, however, is a double-edged sword.

A Rodin-like weightiness to the characters is at odds with their airy texture. Hitchings, however, doesn’t deal in specific political or historical scenes. Hers are urban fêtes, the kind attended by smart, savvy, sexy modern types whose sadness of spirit suggests we conscious beings aren’t so easily cured by the common social prescriptions of alcohol, drugs, and music. (Brian Chidester)

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