Art Review: Sarah Awad, “The Women” at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art

Sarah Awad "Untitled (Reclining Women)," 2013 oil on linen 75 x 95 inches
Sarah Awad “Untitled (Reclining Women),” 2013 oil on linen 75 x 95 inches
(courtesy of the artist and Diane Rosenstein Fine Art)

Sarah Awad’s bold, dreamy paintings leave the us-or-them attitude of old-fashioned feminism in the dustbin of history.

Replacing divisiveness with come-one, come-all promiscuity, the young artist’s fleshy nudes at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art take viewers to a brave new world of sexy pleasures by taking us on a whirlwind tour of works by Picasso, Matisse and Degas, as well as David Park, Richard Diebenkorn and Manuel Neri.

Awad pulls it off because she paints like nobody’s business. On 16 huge, midsize and modestly scaled canvases, she lays down wild slabs of lusciously mixed colors that collide and make sparks fly. Hot pinks, steamy purples and golden yellows rub shoulders — and more — with an electric rainbow of lavender, peach and green.

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Speedy swipes of loaded brushes trace graceful curves that make her meaty figures seem electric: not only pulsing with life but on fire with desires — and minds — all their own.

Despite the heat, a sense of cool aloofness pervades Awad’s paintings. Her figures are not tasty morsels served up for easy consumption. Like real people, they are complex constellations of impulse and mystery.

Some throw everything they’ve got into a casual, offhand gesture. Others sit cross-legged and stiff-backed, as if their bodies were buildings. And paired figures suggest movement, orbiting each other or dissolving into puddles of ambiguity.

“The Women,” Awad’s L.A. solo debut, shows that when you’ve got the right stuff, you don’t need to leave the studio to make paintings that engage the outside world — by changing it.

Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, 831 N. Highland Ave., (323) 397-9225, through Nov. 30. Closed Sundays and Mondays.