Reading time: 3 minutes
ltd los angeles @ Hollywood Hills House, Los Angeles, California, USA
August 28, 2016 – October 2, 2016
Artists: Ashley Armitage, Cheryl Bentley, Tatiana Berg, BFGF, Loren Britton, Courtney Cone, Aimee Goguen, Andrea Joyce Heimer, Roger Herman, Nicole Lesser, Max Maslansky, Laurie Nye, Anja Salonen, Ellen Schafer, Chanel Von Habsburg-Lothringen, Shanna Waddell, Bari Ziperstein
The depiction of the human body in art history is a field littered with problematic tropes: the heroic male, the objectified female, the exotic native. These pervasive images stem from traditions of art and beauty that were developed from a strictly white, European, male, and heteronormative perspective. Feminine bodies in western culture have almost always been viewed as objects of display, not to mention non-white or queer bodies, which are likewise consigned to be fetishitic oddities if they are included at all. The artists in this exhibition take the human form, with all of its art historical and societal baggage, as their subject.
Loren Britton and Tatiana Berg use abstraction as a tool to blur the lines of gender and sexuality. In Britton’s paintings the abstraction of bodily forms provides an aesthetic space for a spectrum of gender identities while Berg’s brushy simplified figures possess an unencumbered and joyful embrace of their human sexuality. Likewise, Roger Herman’s messy erotic ceramics take their inspiration from Hans Bladung Grien’s 16th century depictions of witches, earthy and obscene in their naked exuberance.
Both Courtney Cone and Aimee Goguen mine more taboo aspects of bodies: the warm, wet, sticky places of biological processes. Cone’s orifice sculptures revel in the gross possibilities of flesh as form, while Goguen’s visceral mashup of amateur pornography and horror visuals illustrate how little space exists between repulsion and arousal. Max Maslansky and Anja Salonen opt for humor in depicting their subjects. Salonen samples comic books and cartoons as visual inspiration her goofily absurd, sausage-handed figures while Maslansky’s creates clown-nosed parodies of pornography to address the (white) male gaze in relation to the nude and the sex act.
Ashley Armitage’s works glorify alternatives to the standard ideal forms of feminine beauty. Armitage’s photo series Taking Back What’s Ours highlights the beauty of stretch marks, armpit hair, and non-white skin. Similarly, Chanel Von Habsburg-Lothringen’s masked photos of herself and her grandmother play with the slick tropes of fashion photography. Her inclusion of the aging female body in images of sexualized objectification empathize visual culture’s pervasive youth-bias. Art brand BFGF mines a high/low mix of art historical motifs and Tumblr-era pop culture to create an array of lifestyle products depicting classical and primitive nudes freed from their patriarchal ancestry to enjoy a chill-zone of idealized pleasure. Cheryl Bentley’s drawings of unselfconsciously libertarian sexuality refuse societal prescriptions of sex and gender with abandon.
Both Shanna Waddell and Bari Ziperstein promote new visions of feminine strength and power, celebrating girly aesthetics along with athleticism and aggression respectively. Alternately, Andrea Joyce Heimer’s representations of unselfconscious female nudes are evocative in their universally legible suburban weirdness. Laurie Nye’s confidently assertive sci-fi figure blends nature and technology into an empowered hybrid form. Also forward thinking are the silicone sculptures of Ellen Schafer which consider bioengineering and the future of the body as commodity. Nicole Lesser explores the commodities themselves, and the ways that the clothing and accessories with which we adorn our bodies are cultural and aesthetic signifiers.
Taken in total these works give voice to different possibilities, agency to marginalized positions and resist dominant understandings of gender, race, and sexuality. The body may be a battleground but it is also the essential humanity that unites us all. Shouldn’t our art and culture represent and celebrate the multiplicity of voices it contains, rather than glorify a timeworn singular definition?
Photo: Ian Byers-Gamber
Courtesy of the artists and ltd los angeles