'Bathers', the first solo exhibition by Koak, will feature new works in painting, drawing, and installation. Koak’s artwork pulls from the lineage of hand-drawn cartoons, comics, and historical nude portraiture. For this exhibition the artist has examined the rich history of bathing as depicted throughout art, from Cezanne’s 'The Large Bathers' (c.1906) to the more anxious depictions of bathers in contemporary painting. Through this she explores themes of gender, identity, transformation, and the tenuous relationship between humans and water in our modern day.
In 'Standing Bathers' (2017), a painting that measures 111 inches tall, we witness a nuclear sunset glowing over a chaotic gathering around a riverbed. Billowing smoke, distressed animals, and oil-slicked water are a few of the elements that accompany the painting’s several grieving figures. A broken but defiant woman in the lower corner sits poised and staring at the viewer. With the majority of artworks in this exhibition set indoors, away from the natural world, 'Standing Bathers' is one of the few moments where the artist aligns with the historical and envisions an outdoor bathing scene. However, this painting, rather than depicting a leisurely setting, embraces the tension that revolves around our relationship to natural resources—it references icons such as tear gas, water cannons, and police dogs, imagery that has become synonymous with protests.
Koak’s twisted sense of humor runs through even the most tender of images. Her skillfully rendered body distortions convey a nuance to the women she’s created, women who live in a multifaceted dimension, where everything is deeply felt and interpreted. Her compositions present the female form in an array of states and emotions, each heightened through her use of shape, form, and color. Koak’s women are not passive—they are alive, engaged, and aware.
Koak is an artist living and working in San Francisco, California. She has received her MFA in Comics at California College of the Arts and her BFA from their Individualized Program. Recent exhibitions include BBQLA (Los Angeles), Holiday Forever (Jackson Hole), 100% Gallery (San Francisco), Et al. etc. (San Francisco), Olsen-Gruin (NYC), and Material Art Fair (Mexico City). Her work has been published in Vault Magazine, It’s Nice That, Vice, and will be in the forthcoming issue of Oberon.