Opening: Anh Duong’s ‘Without Obsession I Am Lost’ at Spring Place Beverly Hills

All installation photos by Edward Carreón

Despite the likes of Elle MacPherson, Iman and Paulina Porizkova grabbing the majority of the headlines in the ’80s, model Anh Duong was arguably the most creatively influential of them all, being the treasured muse of Christian Lacroix, John Galliano and Dolce & Gabbana, and strikingly walking the runways for Moschino, Yamamoto, Dior and Lagerfeld, to name but a few. But she had also studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and did courses in classical dance with the Franchetti Academy and Tessa Beaumont before ultimately settling on modeling. Amidst it all, she was an accomplished painter, as well.

No surprise for such a effortless multi-hyphenate, she checked out of modeling in the latter part of the “Me” decade, and after spending a summer at the Warhol Estate in Montauk, NY in 1989 (she was dating Julian Schnabel at the time), decided to devote most of her creative efforts to being an artist (she also occasionally acted). Her piercing, thought-provoking self-portraits quickly became a sensation, and she soon began exhibiting around Europe and eventually New York.

Now New York / Zurich’s Galerie Gmurzynska is at last presenting her first LA solo show at Spring Place Beverly Hills, which will be open to the public by appointment. Confessionally titled Without Obsession I Am Lost, it features more than 25 oil paintings in her utterly distinctive style, several of which are new and have never been seen before.

Courtesy of Galerie Gmurzynska

She’s painted famous friends like Diane Von Furstenberg and Susan Sarandon, the latter of which, from 2009, is included in this show. But it’s when she turns her artistic gaze to herself that her brush truly allows her to open a window into the myriad complexities that add up to Anh Duong. Like Lucien Freud, and more recently Jenny Saville, she doesn’t flinch from inviting the viewer into the inner turbulence that lies behind the facade of beauty – which is true especially in such an intimate 2022 portrait as the one that gives the show its title, her eyes seemingly wide with fatigue and uncertainty as she dangles a cigarette dramatically between her fingers.

Also new is The Impossible Gender Frontier, in which she allows for being a bit more openly socio-political, depicting herself as a kind of medieval warrior goddess, who is nevertheless seeking comfort in a decidedly sympathetic looking teddy bear. It is both fearlessly fierce, and courageously vulnerable.

“When I paint myself,” she explains rather existentially, “I use a true mirror. It’s a reflection of the reflection…so it’s actually the real me.”

But although these portraits are indeed her, they speak viscerally to the more universal condition of women and self-image, especially in this, the 21st Century. Indeed, the age of social media has made easy work of creating facades, to the point where it is sometimes difficult to tell where we end, and where the artifice begins. Duong’s newest work seems to have captured something poignant about that particularly urgent predicament.

“Her new body of work is absolutely mind blowing,” enthuses Galerie Gmurzynska New York’s Managing Partner Isabelle Bscher. “Her references to old master and modernist artists such as [Max] Beckmann are astounding, while maintaining a very contemporary feeling that comments on today’s culture.”

Anh Duong’s Without Obsession I am Lost will be on view at Spring Place Beverly Hills, 9800 Wilshire Blvd, through September 1.

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