SLO Museum of Art presents Alyssa Monks: Be Perfectly Still, a Retrospective

Friday, September 16th, 2022

Alyssa Monks exhibit in San Luis Obispo

Alyssa Monks’ first museum retrospective is on view through Nov 13, 2022 The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) is pleased to present the first museum retrospective by contemporary artist Alyssa Monks. The exhibition brings together paintings that span the arc of Monks’ career from the early 2000s to recent works created during
the pandemic. Through paintings that are expressive, lush, and often intimate, Monks conveys the very essence of being human through works that meditate on love, loss, and the perennial search for self.

The paintings included in this exhibition feature large-scale portraits of Monks and those closest to her portrayed in vulnerable or intimate contexts. Often capturing fragmented elements of a scene, or layering together various
spaces and moments, Monks’ works disorient the viewer and invite reflection on one’s own vulnerability.

Through the use of thickly applied brushstrokes, and her tendency to flip the background and foreground
using semi-transparent filters of glass, vinyl, steam, water or foliage over shallow spaces, Monks creates surface tension in her work that challenges easy interpretation of her subject matter.

“Alyssa Monks’ paintings capture something essential about the human experience which we can all relate to on some level,” said SLOMA Chief Curator Emma Saperstein. “I first fell in love with Monks’ work as a teenager and my
fascination with her painting has only continued to grow as her work has evolved. We feel truly honored to be able to present such a large and sweeping body of her work together for the first time.”

From her earliest works, Monks has created paintings that are at once naturalistic, expressive and elusive. “Charade” (2010) confronts the viewer with a woman who could just as easily be struggling for the surface as she could be giving herself a moment alone with her thoughts. Offering only a fractured scene, the work invites the viewer
to reflect on personal experiences.

With later works, such as “It’s All Under Control” (2021), Monks uses her interest in flipping fore and backgrounds to create an obscured and abstracted surface, capturing the panic and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic through a lone figure standing behind what appears as layered glass. In works like “Bait” (2010) Monks asserts the confidence of her subject, meeting the viewers gaze head on, capturing the strength of the painter, the viewer, and the subject.

Monks has said of her work, “My intention is to transfer the intimacy and vulnerability of my human experience into paint for someone else to connect to. Paintings are objects you need to be in the same room with to sense the
energy in their surfaces. I like mine to be as intimate as possible, the painted surface like a fossil, recording every gesture and decision.”

Alyssa Monk lives and paints in Brooklyn. Born 1977 in New Jersey, Alyssa began oil painting as a child. She studied at The New School in New York and earned her B.A. from Boston College in 1999. During this time she studied painting at Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence and went on to earn her M.F.A. from the New York Academy of Art in
2001. She completed an artist in residency at Fullerton College in 2006 and has lectured and taught at universities and institutions worldwide. She continues to offer workshops and mentorships and lectures regularly.

Alyssa Monks exhibits

Past solo exhibitions include: It’s All Under Control, Forum Gallery, NY (2021-2022); Hiraeth, The Bo Bartlett Center, Columbus, GA (2020-2021); Hybrid, Pontone Gallery, UK, 2019; Breaking Point, Forum Gallery, NY (2018); Spirit Songs, Gail Severn Gallery, ID, (2018); and Resolution, Forum Gallery, NY (2016), among many others. Her paintings are included in numerous group exhibitions and in public and private collections. Her work was heavily featured in season 6 of the FX television series The Americans.

The presentation at SLOMA is the widest-ranging survey of Monks’ work to date. With paintings spanning fifteen years of her career the works offer unprecedented insight into her career and practice. This exhibition is made possible with the support of Carmel and Naccasha Law, SLO-Brew, KSBY, the City of SLO, and Marfarm.

The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is dedicated to providing and promoting diverse visual arts experiences for people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, education, creation, and collaboration.

The museum is located at 1010 Broad Street in San Luis Obispo. Admission is free. For more information about current exhibits and programs visit or call (805) 543-8562


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