Dis-rupted reviewed by Lisa Williamson at Number: Inc, Magazine, April 12th, 2019
if you have two legs, borrow another pair and run,
HERE Arts Center,
145 6th Ave, New York, NY 10013
July 19– September 1, 2018
Tuesday – Saturday, 2 – 7 pm.
If you have two legs, borrow another pair and run, a loose translation of a Persian proverb, frames this group exhibition reconsidering singledom. Positing that being single is not a condition of lack or in need of remedy. Asking instead, what if singledom is such a scarily powerful state that we find ourselves undermining it? Challenging the cultural perspective that one’s life is complete only after finding a partner, the works in this exhibition forefront, instead, the empowerment found in true autonomy. Offering ways to address the paired world with surreal prosthetic or embracing the repudiation of a contemporary life ‘uncoupled’ and exploring notions of the missing partner or the insufficient, abandoned romance. Co-curated by Santina Amato and Sarah Skaggs, with artwork by Mohadeseh Rahimitabar, Katya Grokhovsky, Lauren Steinberg, Lindsay Hutchens, Katie Hammond, Santina Amato and Monica Rezman. A limited edition catalog with contributions by the artists and cover design by Angela Azmitia will be available at the reception.
Mohadeseh Rahimitabar is interested in creating a dialogue between language, in particular, language used within proverbs, and the role of materials in defining every-day objects. This show borrows as it’s title Rahimitabar’s contemplation on the Iranian proverb اگر دو پا داري ، دو تا ديگه هم قرض كن و فرار كن, loosely translated into English as “If you have two legs, borrow another pair and run”. Within the context of this exhibition, her beautifully crafted wooden sculptures titled The Blind Leading The Blind and If You Have Two Legs, Borrow Another confront the social narrative that singledom is a potential disability. The structural reinforcement of value in being coupled reflects in our everyday life: reduction of income tax, employer sponsored health insurance and benefits are extended to the partner, booking a hotel room for two is a given, paying rent is halved, and the list goes on. Singledom is costly. Rahimatabar offers the viewer a pair of prosthetics to borrow, so that the single person can run in a world that is made for pairing.
Within her practice, Katya Grokhovsky employs her body as a tool to weave together the personal and the political, creating a stage for the bodies of the historically oppressed, in relation to the social order. Bad Woman video sculpture reminds us of the old eccentric lady of our childhood: the one that sat on the peripheries of our family or community events, looked upon as too ‘out there’ for finding a partner. The bachelor is praised, the spinster, ostracized. Bad Woman pushes this trope to campy excess to subvert the gaze and confuse the viewer, her gestures reflect desire and the restraints that are imposed to contain it. She attempts to hold a position of desire but is easily distracted and at one point, rubs watered down red paint onto her legs in an attempt to recapture the fertility and sexual height of her long gone ‘desirable’ and youthful state. It reminds us of Jill Soloway’s TV series adaptation of Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick: “I was born into a world that presumes there is something grotesque, unspeakable about female desire. And now all I want is to be undignified, to trash myself. I want to be a female monster.”
Exhaustingly attempting to blow up an air mattress by placing the pump at her groin, Lauren Steinberg simulates masturbation and other sexual acts in Performance Anxiety, Go Love Yourself. Steinberg is interested in presenting objects altered through performance, acknowledging object associations with her body while expanding on what these objects can be. Her video work included in this exhibition confronts the viewer, presenting the act of masturbation and sex, without the ‘other’s’ participation. The ‘other’ in this instance is a plastic air mattress that receives the results of Steinberg’s hard work. The inanimate object almost arrives at its ideal state – to support a body in repose – yet Steinberg is left exhausted and without the satisfaction of ‘the little death’ that we all aim for in sexual relations, whether it be by ourselves or with others. Connections to the history of the vibrator and why it was invented come to mind. The vibrator ”was developed to perfect and automate a function that doctors had long performed for their female patients: the relief of physical, emotional and sexual tension through external pelvic massage, culminating in orgasm.” Natalie Angier, New York Times.
Presenting as a Vanitas with a photograph of decaying fruit hanging on the wall above the naked figure of a man, we are reminded that states of desire, erotica, youth, and pleasure will inevitably change, even die, leaving us alone again. Lindsay Hutchens takes to the photographic medium to look to the intersecting and contingent visual aspects of the clichéd American nuclear family structure, and how photography and video can be used to resist that structure’s legitimacy as opposed to uphold it. Her work titled Alex on the Last Day of Spring, inverts the patriarchal convention of the nude, inviting the viewer to gaze upon a male figure in repose. Hutchens’ work questions the structures of our intimate or familial relationships and the assumptions and ideologies we carry unknowingly. Notions of the perfect partner conflate sustained attraction and companionship. We are taught that to experience desire, erotica and pleasure, one must be in union with another, in a normative, sustainable, long term relationship. Is it possible to simply enjoy the moments of desire and erotica without developing a co-dependency on the other? And if it is possible, is society willing to let people who choose their singledom in desire, live without repercussions?
Katie Hammond has been plagued by disability for the past ten years and her work is a selfish salve for her chronic pain and its psychological ramifications. The paint is applied on velvet, a material that we associate with warmth, intimacy, and the pleasure of touch, yet the imagery is the sterile world of a body in pain where the fixing of the basic functions (or dysfunctions) of the human body occur. Hammond tackles the self portrait to reflect on her challenges: Self Portrait in Hot Tub, Self Portrait with Bird Skeletons and Wedding Ring Tan Line (Frida Kahlo paper doll book), Self Portrait with Incision and Chihuahua (Frida Kahlo paper doll book), Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (after Frida Kahlo). Using both humour and horror, her work In this exhibition reflects the challenges that lie within for a person plagued by disability and an artist without health insurance insurance.
“The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” Susan Sontag. Santina Amato, well known for her works using bread dough, presents a new work from her ongoing series that appropriates amatuer porn downloaded off the internet. Her practice results from conceptions that come from her personal experience in her female body, drawing on themes such as strangeness/foreignness, intimacy & vulnerability, self & Other, presence & absence, and horror/desire. In Violet Room, the woman’s sexual partner is removed from the scene, frame-by-frame, leaving us with a surreal voyeuristic lens into subjects pleasure. We are presented with a video of a woman in an erotic state but we are not able to locate or identify with the sexual partner who is providing the pleasure. We are left out. We are not invited. We are simply asked to watch, to be a ‘tourist’, as a woman enjoys her erotic state, by herself. This surreal world is one where it is possible to find pleasure without the labor of the act, but also removed from the necessity and awareness of the partner.
Unapologetic in offering a nuanced and complicated understanding of satisfaction that is divorced from its relation to a partner, these works aim to make space for the narrative that the uncoupled individual is not in a state of want or lack. These works make evident the norms we internalize and offer a sensual, erotic and surreal world that attempts to subvert them.
Katya Grokhovsky, Bad Woman, 2017, Video, 13 minutes
Mohadeseh Rahimitabar, The Blind Leading the Blind 2, 2017, Cherry wood, purpleheart wood, playdough, brass rod, 23”
Mohadeseh Rahimitabar, If you have two legs borrow another pair and run, 2016, Cherry wood, metal rod, 43”
Lauren Steinberg, “Performance Anxiety”: Go and Love Yourself, 2016, Video of a performance, 8 minutes on a loop
Santina Amato, Violet Room, 2018, Video, Edition of 5, 02:32
Lindsay Hutchens, Alex on the Last Day of Spring, 2017, Archival inkjet print, 30”x40”, Edition of 3, two AP
Mohadeseh Rahimitabar, Resistance practice, 2017, Video, 00:09:38
Katya Grokhovsky, Bodybeautiful, 2013, Fabric, toys, acrylic, ribbons
Katie Hammond, Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (after Frida Kahlo), 2016, Acrylic, paper, glitter, fabric, canvas, 60”x48”
Katie Hammond, Party Cactus, 2016, Wire, paper pulp, nails, glitter, acrylic, plastic pot, 30” tall
Katie Hammond, Self Portrait with Incision and Chihuahua (Frida Kahlo paper doll book), 2016, Acrylic on velvet, 36”x32”
Lindsay Hutchens, For Lindsay, 2017, Archival inkjet print, 40”x30”, Edition of 3, two AP
Monica Rezman, Spring Giddness 2, 2011, Charcoal drawing on archival inkjet print, 30”x40”
Monica Rezman, Love’s confusing joy, 2011, Archival inkjet print, 11”x17”
Monica Rezman, Unseen World, 2011, Archival inkjet print, 11”x17”
Katya Grokhovsky, Bodybeautiful, 2013, Fabric, toys, acrylic, ribbons
Santina Amato, Untitled (Dough Project Self Portrait), 2015, Video, 00:08
Katie Hammond, Self Portrait with Bird Skeletons and Wedding Ring Tan Line (Frida Kahlo paper doll book), 2016, Acrylic on velvet, 36”x32”
Katie Hammond, Self Portrait in Hot Tub, 2016, Acrylic on velvet, 36”x32”
Lauren Steinberg (http://lauren-steinberg.com/) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Chicago who graduated with an MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She creates queer uncanny spaces by borrowing from her vocabulary of: endurance performance, clowning, stunt work, muscle memory, drag-king routines, inflation and deflation to question our set environments and expectations. She has performed at multiple locations including HEREarts Center New York, Mimosa House London and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Katya Grokhovsky’s (https://www.katyagrokhovsky.net/) practice encompasses several mediums, including installation, performance, sculpture, video, painting and drawing, which she employs to explore ideas of gender and identity construction, alienation, labor and the self. She is an interdisciplinary artist, independent curator, educator and a founding director of Feminist Urgent. She holds an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a BFA form Victorian College of the Arts and a BA (Honors) in Fashion form Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She is a recipient of numerous awards, residencies and fellowships and has exhibited her work extensively nationally an internationally.
Lindsay Hutchens' (http://www.lindsayhutchens.com/) practice is as an artist, writer, researcher, and curator. Through these collaborative mediums, she theorizes a feedback loop of pleasure and obligation that exists in both the mechanical and biological forms of reproduction within family photographs, proposing in response a present-ness in photography that might disrupt hierarchies of ancestor and descendant.
Santina Amato (https://santinaamato.com/) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work addresses the notion of the intimate body, especially the female body. Her practice incorporates video, sculpture, installation, painting and photography and is deeply rooted in psychoanalytic thinking and feminist theory to translate the complexities of her own female sexuality, desire and erotica within a patriarchal system. Amato is known for her works using bread dough as a material focus but presents a new work from her ongoing porn series. Manipulating amateur porn downloaded from the internet and using it as a material to renegotiate the meaning of it’s original context, Amato’s porn works reflect on the psychosexual nature of intimate relationships. She is a current Smack Mellon Hot Pick Artist for 2018/2019.
Through the suggestive motif of hair, Monica Rezman (http://monicarezman.com/) explores conceptions of femininity, beauty, and the body. Hair, in her drawings and photographs, is always either severed from its human subject or fully engulfing her, producing a visceral response that verges on the uncanny—that aesthetic emotion whereby something deeply familiar is experienced as foreign and strange. Hair, a most intimate and familiar material, becomes alien and uncomfortable when seen in isolation or in unnaturally copious amounts.
Mohadeseh Rahimitabar (https://www.mohadesehrahimitabar.com/) is a multidisciplinary artist who was born in Iran. She gained her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently lives and works between The Netherlands and United States. She is interested in questioning the role of norms, values and rules that shape the identities and human bodies in social and cultural contexts. Her practice investigates into the relationships between the language and social-cultural values. This show borrows as its title Rahimitabar’s contemplation on the Iranian proverb, نک†رارف†و†نک†ضرق مھ†رگید†یاپ†ود†یراد†اپ†ود†رگا†, which in English loosely translated to “If you have two legs, borrow another pair and run”. Within the context of this exhibition, her wooden sculptures titled The Blind Leading the Blind and If You Have Two Legs, Borrow Another confront the social narrative that singledom is a potential disability
Katie Hammond (http://www.katiehammondartist.com/) makes acrylic paintings on canvas and velvet, and sculptures from lo-fi materials such as cardboard and wire. Her work explores self-portraiture, symbolism, and iconography, with nods to art history, pop culture and kitsch. Hammond earned her MFA in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016. Following graduation, her work was featured in EXPO Chicago and she had a solo show at Western Exhibitions, Chicago. In 2018, her work was included in group shows at LVL3, Heaven Gallery, Riverside Arts Center, and HERE Arts Center in New York. She has received fellowships to Ox-Bow and Vermont Studio Center residencies. Hammond was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and currently lives and works in Chicago.
Review of Monster by Janet Cheung on Chicago Artist Writers
Smack Mellon Hot Pick Artist 2018/2019
Smack Mellon: Supporting emerging, under-recognized mid-career, and women artists since 1995.
Located at 92 Plymouth Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn.
Smack Mellon’s Hot Picks program was launched in 2007. The top artists, as selected from the Studio Program applicants by a panel of esteemed curators, arts professionals, and established artists, are featured on the Smack Mellon website and social media for one year.