Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Vaginal Rejuvenation at Guild and Greyshkul

Written by Melissa Levin
Artists, Amanda Ross-Ho and Kristen Stoltmann, have taken on monumental subject matter in their current exhibition, Vaginal Rejuvenation—domestic and sexual imagery, pop and punk cultures, Robert Rauschenberg, and feminism, to name a few. The title itself implies that there is a reclamation, restoration, or re-appropriation. It is both sexual and inherently artistic. At the same time, there is something very intimate and sweet about the show emphasizing the element of collaboration and friendship between the artists. In many ways though, they haven’t so much collaborated as explored, interpreted, and reclaimed each other’s practices. The installation feels like a dialogue between the two ladies and their audience.

Artists, Amanda Ross-Ho and Kristen Stoltmann, have taken on monumental subject matter in their current exhibition, Vaginal Rejuvenation—domestic and sexual imagery, pop and punk cultures, Robert Rauschenberg, and feminism, to name a few. The title itself implies that there is a reclamation, restoration, or re-appropriation. It is both sexual and inherently artistic. At the same time, there is something very intimate and sweet about the show emphasizing the element of collaboration and friendship between the artists. In many ways though, they haven’t so much collaborated as explored, interpreted, and reclaimed each other’s practices. The installation feels like a dialogue between the two ladies and their audience.

Most of the work in the show is collage or assemblage using some typically “girly” clichés, like, stickers, pop culture icons, quilts, candles, and relationship taglines like, “This isn’t working.” The difference is that these things are not in a girl’s bedroom or studio; they are in our faces, in the gallery, exposed. Aggressively. Humorously.

While the gallery is full of cut up images of hard (and soft) bodies and fake breasts—like Lack/Stacked, a pretty hilarious play on the oddly named Ikea furniture line—maybe Punk (You Can’t Handle the Truth) does the best at getting the point across. A pissed looking tattooed pregnant woman sits naked, legs spread, on a pink chair in an empty space. The photograph itself sits on the floor of the gallery, and spray-painted over the top (upside down), it says, “You Can’t Handle the Truth.” This image is successful because it directly addresses the viewer, the subject, mass culture, and most poignantly, the images surrounding it, which make it all the more powerful.

Untitled Still Life (Kell Just) is a subtle, unapologetic collage that you might almost miss among the other works. In a way, collecting bits of each stereotype that appear throughout the show, it reads like a map. The work, though delicate, overflows with references containing images of lame pop icons, Justin and Kelly (the winner and runner-up of the first season of American Idol), a quilting pattern, a t-shirt that reads, “I wish these were brains” across the bust, a little photo of a wig, knife, and coffee cup on a table, and the words, “Divorce Court”, scribbled at the top all put together with tape and pushpins.

The collage, American Craft, made to look like a page from a scrapbook, is like a version of American history, from black and white images of Native Americans to cutout photos of present-day naked ladies in a sea of animal, baby, eyeball, and footprint stickers, candles, and buttons, all framed with Mary Engelbreit-like borders.

There are some aberrations that seem more like cheap shots than complex, productive or even funny declarations. Presents from Miami 2 is, unfortunately, more an allegory about a sloppy and over-saturated art world loving itself, than it is related to the core of the rest of their investigation. In addition, when there are bared breasts and covered up vaginas, things gets complicated. Because using this imagery, while commenting on it, simultaneously proliferates it.

For the most part, though, this show is about activities, bodies and relationships that, despite continued objectification and prejudice in the world, are now more ours than ever.

 

Image courtesy of Guild & Greyshkul, NY             

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