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Review: Ether and Agony and Reappearance of Modern Happiness 

Works at Antenna Gallery and Second Story Gallery

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"Such a nasty woman." Doreen Garner is an artist, not a politician, but she embraces the pejorative terms often used to describe her explorations of the black female body as a nexus of sensuality and oppression. In her video, Uniqa, she appears as a scantily clad dancer alluringly writhing to rap music in the harsh light of video projections of gory surgical procedures — an approach partly inspired by J. Marion Sims, the 19th-century "father of American gynecology," who subjected female slaves to grisly experiments in his pursuit of medical breakthroughs. Saartjie's Triangle (pictured), refers to a South African tribal woman exhibited in a European sideshow because her voluptuousness was of a sort not seen there since the prehistoric Venus of Willendorf. Utilizing materials that evoke smoked salmon and white caviar topped with a dark thatch, it memorializes a part of Saartjie's anatomy that was — bizarrely — surgically excised after her death at age 25, preserved and shown at a major French museum until 1974. Garner seems like snark on steroids, but her work is a meditation on the superficiality of sensations that seduce and repulse and how they affect our relationship with others, ourselves and the world around us.   Natori Green's drawings and mixed-media works about African-American hair, rendered in a style between expressionism and arte naif, look startlingly unaffected and whimsical. Combing in the Mirror depicts a swarthy figure with natural hair against a background of pictures of women with straight, processed coifs in a contrast of cultures, while Can I Touch Your Hair? spotlights the sense of "otherness" sometimes associated with natural locks. Green's sincerity infuses even edgier, more experimental works like Hair Consultant, in which strands of wavy dark hair pouring from between red papier mache lips extend a world of stark realities into the ether of surreal dreams.


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