Rachel Lachowicz at Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Artillery, January 2011
Rachel Lachowicz, Untitled 3d sketch, 2010
Rachel Lachowicz has always been gloriously, indeed blissfully irreverent, and the work that comprises her newest exhibition at Shoshana Wayne is no exception. Riotously extending the boundaries between standard feminist critical theory that by its very nature denounced patriarchal influence during the 1960s and 70s and included such artists as Judy Chicago and Barbara Kruger, and the more lively, if less sophisticated, self-referential work of female artists of the early 21st century like Wangechi Mutu, Lachowicz has forged a significant and singular path that utilizes the physical materials used by women to construct feminine identities, including lipstick, soap and eye shadow. Lachowicz employs her materials less in the service of seduction and more toward the purpose of excavating "femininity," dislodging it from its previous moorings, wherein it transforms, becoming its own uniquely wonderful phenomenological process.
Feminist art sometimes runs the risk of appearing didactic or labored, but Lachowicz' use of humor diffuses this impulse completely. As with prior works, Lachowicz continues to engage in a dialogue with other artists she admires, both male and female, and certain pieces in this exhibition attest to a very particular aesthetic that involves the literal connection and ultimate disintegration of parts, whether they be plastic, metal or cardboard. Works like Untitled 3d sketch (all works mentioned are from 2010) attempt to examine the obvious connection between interior and exterior space. Lachowicz has stacked several oddly geometric cardboard boxes atop one another, not haphazardly, but with the near-sinister precision of a wicked alchemist unpacking secret ingredients that could possibly blow up the world, or at the very least, set us all free. Directly opposite, on the far wall, as though it were an interior reflection, is the work Cell: Interlocking Construction that assumes the same configuration of boxes, but in this case made from clear plexiglass and filled with various blue pigments. Both works reference Lee Bontecou's sculptural wall reliefs in their sophistication and use of constructed space as both an absence and a presence simultaneously. Lachowicz' cardboard sculpture posits itself as a constructed shell of mystery, and offers up the possibility of activated space inside, where the viewer need only look across the gallery to the opposite wall to discover the exposed interior, the blue guts as it were, which could perhaps comprise the essence of mystery in its totality. The scope and complexity of these two works, as with all the works in the exhibition, also reference commodification and the neat and tidy "packaging" of our culture.
In other works, like the luminous Parallel Lines, Lachowicz has constructed a strangely seductive and shimmering painterly surface made entirely of white eye shadow. Again, the materials are neatly contained and controlled within a series of small discrete metal tins. The notion of containment is culturally predetermined, leaving no room for exploration or the "beautiful mistake." Still, these surfaces are incredibly alluring, not only in terms of their materiality, but by the very fact they seem to violate, albeit, humorously, the precepts for "staged beauty." After all, eye shadow is simply an adornment to heighten the effect of feminine seduction, but take away the woman's body and what are you left with? It's like gunpowder without the gun, yet all that is required is a lit match, and we're all seeing stars.