The Great American Songbook
10/02/24 - 01/03/24






The Great American Songbook
A Solo Exhibition by Liza Jo Eilers
10.02.24 - 01.03.24
GROVE London
9B Battersea Sq., SW11 3RA, London, UK

Opening: Saturday, February 10th, 4-8 pm

It is difficult to forget the thrill of the explicit. Seeing the forbidden – perhaps it was finding an older brother’s pin-up magazine, or waiting until your parents were out to watch Phoebe Cates undress in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Of course, this is the nature of that infamous Fast Times scene – teenager Brad’s (Judge Reinhold) sexual fantasy hinges on the hidden being revealed. In doing so, something broader about this mode of looking is highlighted: both the object of desire and its revelation become intertwined, while the act of revealing what is forbidden forms a crucial part of upholding the desirability of the hidden object.

It is against this backdrop that Liza Jo Eilers’ The Great American Songbook takes on meaning. With these “Wet T-Shirt” paintings and airbrush works on linen, Eilers examines a desirous mode of looking, asking questions of how her concealed figures operate within constructed desire. Here, the pleasure of “revealing” the image is as great (if not greater) than seeing the image itself. As such, Eilers reveals a matrix of symbols and processes – fantasy and desire become subservient to procedure, with that fantasy only realized insofar as it abides by the requisite construction.

Eilers takes this thinking one step further, analyzing these figures of desire as both sexual and cultural icons. In turn, she realizes that these kinds of icons are not developed in a vacuum, relying heavily on the American aesthetics of the 1980s and 90s, using the gauzy visuals of airbrush to gesture towards the reproduced images through which stars – Elvis, Whitney Houston – have historically been made. One needs to only look as far as Carmen Electra or Anna Nicole Smith to see star power of the women at hand – star power that is as quintessentially American as The Great American Songbook, but as recycled and nonspecific too.

Yet, with a healthy dose of humor and a keen sense of composition, Eilers attempts to reconstruct these icons for a contemporary audience and her own doing. The Great American Songbook is at once a celebration and a reckoning; a reaching out towards a time now past, and a consideration of that moment’s failures and aftermaths.