Vivi­enne Shark LeWitt
Mas­sa Pec­ca­ti: The Sev­en Dead­ly Sins

27th July – 14th August 2010
Anna Schwartz Gallery

A female fig­ure is sus­pend­ed in mid-air: at the moment of apoth­e­o­sis, float­ing, eyes closed and arms out­stretched, in a gos­samer gown of pure white and a cloak of regal blue. Illu­mi­nat­ed by out­lines of white chalk, she appears pious, even saint­ly. The sur­face of bare linen upon which she lev­i­tates epit­o­mis­es vir­tu­ous sim­plic­i­ty and evokes the dusty sur­face of crum­bling fres­co plas­ter, high up on old church walls. The forces sus­pend­ing her how­ev­er, speak of more earth­ly qualities.

Emerg­ing one by one from the very heart of this exem­plary Mar­i­an fig­ure, six ser­pents locate those inter­nal con­flicts dri­ven by what we con­ven­tion­al­ly name the sev­en dead­ly sins”. Recall­ing the themes of Shark LeWitt’s pre­vi­ous tableaux, Mas­sa Pec­ca­ti: The Sev­en Dead­ly Sinsgen­tly address­es the com­plex­i­ties of our per­son­al moral codes. Rather than depict­ing actions toward oth­ers, Shark LeWitt choos­es to pic­ture these demons as states of mind. They are con­flicts nego­ti­at­ed by the intel­lect and the body before being exer­cised upon the out­side world.

Giv­ing the con­ven­tion­al sev­en sins a more for­giv­ing read­ing, Shark LeWitt’s visu­al­i­sa­tions are broad­er and more nuanced than we would nor­mal­ly assume: glut­tony is not pure­ly over-indul­gence but also waste, and is here con­nect­ed to the plumb­ing of the body. Envy — the intense study of that which is unavail­able to us — only flies back in our face with all the mock­ery of that green-eyed mon­ster. Wrath is invoked by our impa­tience or sense of supe­ri­or­i­ty in the face of the efforts of oth­ers. A vain­glo­ri­ous dev­il at one ear, stroking the hair, grooms and per­suades the ego into com­pla­cen­cy. As cen­tral to the com­po­si­tion of the eight pan­els as it is to the list of eth­i­cal crimes, the sin of pride is depict­ed as that female fig­ure with the nec­es­sary arro­gance to shut her eyes and lift her chin in defi­ance of the traits of her own soul.

Embody­ing the doc­trine of mas­sa pec­ca­ti’, the mess of sins, Shark LeWitt refers to the appar­ent­ly nat­ur­al and con­stant state of the human soul. With a deft and assured brush, she inter­prets and offers, with­out demand­ing adher­ence to, a cen­turies-old eth­i­cal code. It is sur­pris­ing and hum­bling that such del­i­cate toes — bare­ly escap­ing the lick of flames that reach from the mouth of hell — might be those of some­one capa­ble of all these tres­pass­es. Or, she might sim­ply be human.


Vivi­enne Shark LeWitt

Mas­sa Pec­ca­ti: The Sev­en Dead­ly Sins, 2010
acrylic on linen
18002465 mm