"Nana" by Allison Maletz

After winding your way up the grey, industrial stairwell of the warehouse building which houses her studio, Allison Maletz’s large-scale, watercolored “Nana” towers over you in warm greeting. A bright teal tracksuit tucks around her comfortable curves while retro shades, now considered a stylish shape, are perched confidently on her nose; a familiar tan purse hangs from one hand while the other casually grips a leg. Perhaps the leg of a deer? It is not entirely clear, but it is undoubtedly disconcerting.

Much of Maletz’s work overtly highlights the familial, familiar and affectionate but dissonant and sometimes vaguely menacing threads are woven throughout her work. The effect is startling and occasionally mesmerizing, especially given Maletz’s technique and approach. Using old and new photographs of friends and family, Maletz revives the insipid, infusing these relatively prosaic images with her own perspective. Her paintings provide fresh interpretations of photographic portraits, which often leave the subjects posing easily or awkwardly but steadily returning the gaze of the viewer. In her iterations, subjects are often depicted against a perfectly white background, allowing the vibrant and mottled aspect of the watercolor, the intricate patterns within neckties, sweaters or camouflage, and the complexity of her facial expressions emerge without competition. 

Check out the opening of Maletz’s latest show with her studio mate, David Pettibone, Interdependent,  this Thursday, September 20th from 7 – 9pm at YASHAR Gallery, located at 276 Greenpoint Ave (between Newel and Jewel), curated by Elizabeth Lamb.

Artist Allison Maletz

As Maletz describes it, part of her motivation has been to understand and know her family in a new way, particularly her grandparents, whom she was (naturally) only ever able to know as elderly adults. Her focus on family has also brought her attention to her younger identical twin sisters and the bizarreness of their experience and her own, as their sister. This particular interest has also incited her exploration of mirroring, patterns and repeition, themes you can find in various pieces if you look and more obviously in the new wallpaper she has started to produce. Certainly the decision to focus on photographs as primary source material is logical given Maletz’s background in photography. Raised in California, she ventured to England to study at the Slade School of Fine Art London. She returned to New York several years ago and started work on watercolors. She teaches watercoloring at 3rd Ward in Bushwick.

In this way, Maletz is draws out unexpected, and occasionally uncomfortable, remnants of memory. It feels a bit like she is taking out our own tattered shoeboxes spilling with old pictures or letters, or perhaps opening a carefully arranged but usually undisturbed photo albums. Just as an old family photograph can captivate with a transportative, surreal quality, Maletz’s work conjures a sentimentality and sense of connection, which is remarkable given that the subjects are her own family – not yours, despite how it may feel in moments.


Maletz has also done a several sound installation pieces which also draw on themes of memory and the mundane. One piece has a visitor sit in a rocking chair with an old-fashioned phone and listen to hold music and messages that are both totally known but expertly and cleverly crafted.  With no pressing objective, listening to Phil Collins and reassurances of being a valued customer had, if you can believe, a weirdly soothing effect! Another piece provides a sonic landscape that guides you through various spaces of travel and transition from countries around the world, conjuring a wide range of emotions; amused and knowing (at the sound of a New York City subway conductor announcing the next station) to wistful and relaxed (distant fog horns).

Recall your own forgotten memories! Check out the opening of Maletz’s latest show with her studio mate, David Pettibone (stay tuned for his profile piece!) – INTERDEPENDENT –  this Thursday, September 20th from 7 – 9pm at YASHAR Gallery, located at 276 Greenpoint Avenue (between Newel and Jewel), curated by Elizabeth Lamb. If you cannot make it on Thursday, set up visiting hours by calling 917.426.4402. You do not want to miss it!

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