The Ranch is pleased to present Dying Stars Give Life to the Universe, the first solo exhibition of Renate Druks (1921-2007) in over 50 years. Druks, a California artist embedded in the creative occult cauldron of mid-century Los Angeles, counted Kenneth Anger, Marjorie Cameron, and Anais Nin among her closest friends and collaborators. Like these artists, Druks blended the centuries old language of the occult with European Surrealism, realizing her visions in paintings and films that seem shockingly prescient in their attention to iconic compositions based on astrology and tarot readings. This first presentation at The Ranch will include a pair of self-portraits, witching narratives, a large-scale painted tableaux presenting the components of the astrological sign of the Libra, and a selection of the painter’s series of deeply felt and lushly painted portraits of cats, real and imagined. In the Tarot the cat symbolizes the shrewd keeper of secrets. Those secrets in turn confer power on the animals, as they navigate the world knowing more than anyone else, especially their human companions. As such, the cat does as it pleases, much like Druks herself. Druks painted her feline friends throughout her career sometimes in groups, sometimes paired with a provocative feminine equivalent. A black panther outstretched brings to mind virility and power, while the pairing of lion and lamb is peace and strength. A black cat exudes the most power of all -- both strength and knowledge withheld. Druks’ feline visions are a fitting introduction to a remarkable five decade-long body of work. In her 1973 film, A Painter’s Journal, Druks intones the keys to her work:
Who am I? Primarily a painter, but there are so many other Renatas…I apparently see myself as a saintly figure in a lace cage. Probably a martyr for beauty. No matter what the fantasy or the dream, the inner timekeeper ticks away, measuring so long, so much, so many. A sensuous mood takes over and I enter the realm of instinct shared with animals. I’m tempted to paint myself as a sort of sex queen, a femme fatale, but instead I look for more souls in the mirror. Who is the realest of them all? Manifested paintings pulse through my head as newly conceived ones take seed. Women and beasts, saints and sinners come and go, off and on.
Renate Druks was born in Vienna in 1921, and studied art at the Vienna Art Academy for Women. After emigrating to the United States in 1940 with her husband and son, she continued her arts education at the Art Students League.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s she lived and painted in Malibu, mounting solo exhibitions at the Lane Galleries in Los Angeles from 1957 to 1965. Druks’ Malibu costume parties, including the infamous “Come as Your Madness” celebration, became the inspiration and instigation for Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) for which Druks worked on the make-up and production design. Druks completed two short films, Spaceboy (1972), which screened at Cannes in 1973, and A Painter’s Journal (1973). She lived in Los Angeles and continued painting until her death in 2007.
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