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Esther Pearl Watson

Safer at Home, Pandemic Paintings

November 21, 2020February 6, 2021

This image illustrates a link to the exhibition titled Esther Pearl Watson: Safer at Home, Pandemic Paintings

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Studio Visit

About

Vielmetter Los Angeles is pleased to present an ambitious series of new paintings by Esther Pearl Watson. “Safer at Home: Pandemic Paintings,” was begun in March at the onset of the shelter in place orders in Los Angeles and spans the timeline of the Covid-19 Pandemic through a diaristic narrative. In a continuous series of over 100 paintings Watson chronicles her and her family’s experience of the pandemic and subsequent events that have unfolded over the last several months offering an opportunity to reflect upon this year of upheaval and change.

Watson documents the daily anxieties and absurdities of quarantine in and around the city and suburbs of Los Angeles. In intimately scaled paintings, she depicts various places along her daily routine– from dropping off weekly care packages with her family members who live in group homes, to her studio in Glassell Park, to mundane activities such as buying groceries and taking walks in the neighborhood. The paintings show recurring images of local businesses struggling to stay open, Watson’s attempts to form a pandemic pod, and nervous neighbors adjusting to normalcy-in-flux as various pressures create perpetual daily uncertainty. Watson’s titles are sourced from her diary, extending the sensibility of her memory paintings, and documenting places like her mother’s Senior Living facility or the La Fiesta Party Supply store, locations that reappear slightly altered as time passes and we continue to adapt.

In an attempt to have some sense of control over her situation, Watson’s landscapes cover the crisis in healthcare, human rights, labor, and education. Like ex-votos, a snippet of text and a date hang in the sky: ”June 26, 2020… A house down the street offers free home-made masks”. The paintings point to parallel struggles and celebrations through exterior glimpses of Los Angeles that exist alongside Watson’s daily routines.

Esther Pearl Watson
“March Set,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
Dimensions variable
Inventory #EPW364
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
Vielmetter-2020-11-19_017.jpg

The colorful and intimate paintings are arranged in groupings by month and are punctuated in stark contrast with drooping black banners containing numbers increasing in size as they depict the total US death count from the virus: 1, 250, 10,000, 150,000, 200,000 etc. The black cloth hovers and drapes, like an ever-present weight, growing and growing until it balloons to an ominous size. Over time we see the Coronavirus deaths double, sometimes within days, reminding us of the gravity of the situation.

While the fabric banners depict the undeniable deaths in the U.S., the paintings of exteriors portray the individual realities so many of us are experiencing. Many of our private struggles remain hidden behind walls. As the dates progress, we can see the conversation changing in the political murals on the side of a small business, yard signs, and the ever-ubiquitous Amazon delivery trucks in the streets. The pandemic paintings highlight how disparities, long overlooked, eventually become visible, raw, and explosive.

Esther Pearl Watson
“June 26, House Offers Homemade Masks,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW303
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw303_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“June 1, Why Does Equality Scare You,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW289
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw289_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“January 24, There is a New Virus,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW230
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw230_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“February 25, Spreading Far Away,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW233
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw233_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“February 26, CDC Confirms a Case,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW234
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw234_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“April 3, CDC Recommends Wearing Face Masks,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
9 x 12" [HxW] (22.86 x 30.48 cm)
Inventory #EPW254
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw254_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“April 7, Rose Bowl Covid-Testing,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
11 x 14" [HxW] (27.94 x 35.56 cm)
Inventory #EPW256
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw256_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“April 11, I Stand Away From Others,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW258
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw258_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“April 12, Hugs Were A No,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW259
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw259_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“April 24, Disinfectants Inside the Body,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW264
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw264_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“April 29, A Friend Tests Positive,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW267
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw267_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“May 2, Protesters Demand Beaches Open,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW268
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw268_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“May 13, Senior Living Virus Testing,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 8" [HxW] (20.32 x 20.32 cm)
Inventory #EPW275
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw275_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“May 24, Party Supply on Lincoln Avenue,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW279
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw279_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“May 25, George Floyd Died,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW283
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw283_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“May 30, Curfew 8:00 pm to 5:00 am,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW286
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw286_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“June 4, Tolerance, Injustice and Change,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW293
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw293_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“June 7, La Pintoresca Park Protest,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW295
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw295_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“June 19, Rose Bowl Juneteenth Caravan,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW298
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
Collection of Taymour Grahne; New York, NY, USA
epw298_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“June 20, Skate for Justice Protest,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
11 x 14" [HxW] (27.94 x 35.56 cm)
Inventory #EPW301
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw301_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“July 9, Stomach Problems and Panic Attacks,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW307
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw307_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“July 17, Protest Systemic Problems,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW312
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw312_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“July 17, John Lewis Passed Away,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW313
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw313_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“July 19, On the Brink of Shutting Down,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW315
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw315_hires-(1).jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“August 1, How Long Is This Crisis Going to Last?,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 8" [HxW] (20.32 x 20.32 cm)
Inventory #EPW319
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw319_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“August 14, Changes To the United States Postal Service,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW326
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw326_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“September 6, Outdoors Is Unbearable,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 8" [HxW] (20.32 x 20.32 cm)
Inventory #EPW334
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw334_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“September 13, The Air Was So Toxic,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
9 x 12" [HxW] (22.86 x 30.48 cm)
Inventory #EPW337
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw337_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“September 14, Pandemic Brain Fog,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW338
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw338_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“September 17, Smoke from the Bobcat Fire Cleared,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
11 x 14" [HxW] (27.94 x 35.56 cm)
Inventory #EPW341
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw341_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“September 27, Halloween Not Recommended,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW346
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw346_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“October 2, President and First Lady test Positive,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
9 x 12" [HxW] (22.86 x 30.48 cm)
Inventory #EPW347
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw347_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“October 3, Poll Worker Sign Up,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW348
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw348_hires.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“October 8, Covid Test, Dodger Stadium,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
9 x 12" [HxW] (22.86 x 30.48 cm)
Inventory #EPW349
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw349_hires-(3)-1605909385.jpg
Esther Pearl Watson
“October 17, City Hall Ballot Box,” 2020
Acrylic with pencil on panel
8 x 10" [HxW] (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Inventory #EPW353
Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Photo credit: Jeff Mclane
epw353_hires.jpg

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Exhibition Walkthrough

Bio

Esther Pearl Watson (b. 1973) lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts. Her paintings have been exhibited at Concord Center for the Visual Arts, Concord, MA, Contemporary Art Museum of Plainview, Plainview, TX, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Parkside, WI, Maureen Paley Gallery in London, and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, amongst others. In 2013 she was Artist-in-Residence at Grafikiens Hus, Mariefred, Sweden. Her award-winning comic “Unlovable” was published in Bust Magazine and with Fantagraphics. She has published Blood Lady Commandos on Vice online and Welcome to Crapland on Adult Swim online. She has taught at Oxbow Artist Residency, the Lexicon of Sexicana at Columbia College in Chicago, and is currently teaching at ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California.