artists & participants
The exhibition takes its title from a song by Public Image Ltd. that expresses in equal parts post punk rebellion and a deconstruction of the notion of a love song. The title is used here to describe an attitude of resistance against common notions of “love” and the particular social parameters that determine it. The exhibition brings together a group of artists who explore issues centering on “love” and the complex relationships between the sexes. By exploring and breaking down societal norms that dictate female behavior in this context, the artists create a space for new roles that shatter these expectations. Shifting effortlessly between analysis and critique, the artists use irony, violence, humor and mayhem to conjure up characters that refuse categorization and defy a social definition of the female.
A fundamental subject in Andrea Bowers’ work is her interest in the relationship between individual and collective identity. Her earlier work explored passionate engagements of individuals at sporting and other events where large anonymous crowds gather. By honing in on the possibilities of active spectatorship and deliberate expressions of individualism within the larger context of group behavior, Bowers has consistently put a human face on the average, unremarkable, and potentially forgotten individual. In her recent work her focus has shifted to an exploration of social activism and its historical and political relevance today. Describing her projects as archeological and herself as someone who is “looking for forgotten subject matter buried in the virtual dump”, Bowers understands her practice as an examination of the past to find historical significance for the present. Presented in the exhibition is a large-scale reproduction of a feminist poster from the seventies in which a young mini-skirt-clad woman is standing self-assured next to two men in front of a row of urinals. Bowers is aware that the image, popular at the time because it expressed a sense of empowerment through the allusion of physical equality between the sexes, is in itself problematic as it still presents a form of objectification of the female. Yet, through its hilarious reference to Duchamp, it sends a powerful ironic message geared towards the inherent sexism of the avant-garde and recalls an attitude that has relevance today.
In her work, Isabell Heimerdinger has long explored the relationship between cinematic narrative and reality. Her recent work traces the space between behaving and acting and asks fundamental questions about how our collective identity, shaped by the pervasive power of Hollywood culture, influences both. In her work “Love Film”, Heimerdinger scrutinizes the most individualistic, raw, and unmitigated behavior we suppose we are capable of – love. Two actors who had never met each other in person were invited into the artist’s studio with the request to improvise a brief love scene in the nude. The resulting film, shot with a single camera from one vantage point, shows the two making love on a plain mattress on the floor. The viewer senses a wide range of emotions between the actors during the short scene, ranging from resistance, stress, and amusement to a rising intimacy that could be interpreted as a spontaneous falling in love. But because, as we are reassured, these actors are very good at what they do, it becomes increasingly unclear whether they are getting successively more comfortable with their roles, whether they are really falling in love with each other, or whether they just brilliantly act two actors performing an improvised love scene. By obfuscating the relationship between acting and behaving, the work lays bare the tremendous influences between cinematic fiction and individual behavior and ultimately questions the possibility of any authentic utterance.
Nicole Eisenman’s recent paintings are often psychic landscapes, inhabited by utopian crowds of sparsely clad women. They span a territory between linguistic reference, psychological exploration, and complex cultural critique, shifting formally between modes of “bad” painting and increasingly luscious forms of abstraction. In the exhibition, a thickly painted seascape depicting a blissful congregation of nude women about to be devoured by an uproarious tidal wave complicates her earlier focus on art history with absurd charm and prickly irreverence.
Self sacrifice and self-destruction, the turmoil of unstable realities caused by extreme states of mind, are the central themes of Mathilde ter Heijne’s work. In her film “Mathilde Mathilde,” she explores the radical consequences of love specifically from a female point of view. “Mathilde Mathilde” is a reaction to three French films* of the eighties and nineties, in which the female lead characters are all coincidentally named “Mathilde,” and all three commit suicide as a result of a love relationship with an older man. Ter Heijne fuses the three different “Mathilde” characters into one dramatic scene. Using a special effects dummy that is fashioned to look like the artist, she re-enacts the suicide and consciously interrupts a cycle of behavior, a particularly female inclination to value the love of a man beyond the most existential love of oneself.
The notion of love and its relationship to death and fear is also a central theme in Chloe Piene’s work. In her film shown at last year’s Whitney Biennial, a prepubescent girl leaps from a dark primordial muck, roaring and howling in a terrifying and mesmerizing performance of power and doom. In Piene’s delicate drawings, girls and deer fuse as part flesh and part skeleton to link love and death, female sexuality and animal nature in a dark vision that pairs a mythic sensibility with the classic composition of renaissance painting.
Dasha Shishkin’s drawings and etchings present an equally dark world, mostly inhabited by women, in which mutilated figures perform mythic rituals that seem simultaneously cruel and logical. Strangely disconnected, her characters display a loveless social order that reflects back to us the absurdities of societal rules in strangely humorous ways.
The female body and its relationship to nature is an ongoing concern of Laura Aguilar, who presents new color photographs of nudes in the desert. Mountains of flesh become abstracted forms merging into the landscape. By fetishizing her own fleshy body, she challenges traditional notions of beauty and asserts a powerful declaration of self love in the face of an ever-increasing pressure to conform to narrow standards of beauty.
*Francois Truffaut: La Femme de la Cote, 1980, Jean Claude Brisseau: Noce Blanche, 1990, Patrice Leconte: Me Mari de la Coiffeuse, 1991
This is not a love song
Oh no I'm adaptable Now I like my new role I'm getting better and better I have a new goal I'm changing my ways Where money applies This is not a love song This is not a love song
Written & Produced by Public Image Ltd ©1983 PiL Records Inc / Virgin Music Inc
We would like to thank Grimm Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, Sandroni Rey, Los Angeles, Leo Koenig Gallery, New York, and Arndt & Partner, Berlin