Untitled Body Parts is a conversation coalescing around Kiki Kogelnik. More than 50 years ago, Kogelnik pursued her relational subjects—feminism and appropriation, technology and the body, process and fragmentation, anxiety and eros, and identity and outer space—with a prescience and vitality that registers her work as contemporary with many younger artists. Sonia Almeida, Alisa Baremboym, Dora Budor, Mira Dancy, Sanya Kantarovsky, Sara Greenberger Rafferty, and Emily Mae Smith resonate with Kogelnik. Either from direct or ambient vibration, these younger artists are in dialog not just with Kogelnik, but with ideas, processes, and forms the late artist fomented. Untitled Body Parts galvanizes these ideas today.
Bodies—skin, weight, gesture, faces, and clothes—are consistently invoked throughout the exhibition. In Greenberger Rafferty’s tableau, a the image of a baby-pink robe is fragmented, broken into frames, partially scrubbed and rinsed away, and painted with cream paint from behind: this flattened mis-en-scene is a finely calibrated criticism in the form of sitcom attire for the leisured class. Dancy’s nude female portraits depict irrepressible bodies that radiate an exuberant light; in mirrors and a pallette of bright fuschia and purple, they create spaces for their own realization. Almeida’s sleight-of-hand riffs on flatness and form; abstraction is organic, bawdy, ripe, whereas the more rational illustration of a balance beam borrows from the xerox, an image flattened by its reproduction. Paint possesses its own gravity, it is dead, alive, paused, actuated, and conjured, according a plane for its own material theater. And Kantarovsky’s portrait, in which the wry expression of his upended subject is the site for a punning pictography—paint’s pleasure touched with disgust.
Challenging the history of industry and its relationship to the body is Emily Mae Smith’s reversal of Picabia’s sparkplug eroticism. In her matching of standardized brass fixtures and the muscular abs of a statue, the body becomes its own regulated industry. Baremboym’s patterned and skin-like ceramic are handmade, though they seem 3D rendered; as a clear acrylic sleeve traces the contours of the fleshy material beneath, memory becomes a transparent mask enfolded into simulations of bodies and skin. And Budor’s turbo-folktale, generating a nervous system hooked directly to the physical props of cinema. Equally fascinated by and suspicious of the technocratic utopianism of space exploration, Kogelnik saw this skyward desire as a democratizing force. With Untitled (Hanging), variously-colored vinyl silhouettes of her friends and family hang, prostrate or back-broken, from a coat hanger. As much as there is a natural gravity in their materials, there remains a certain weightlessness. For Kogelnik (as for the conversations in Untitled Body Parts), people are their own frontier, and hence, the irony that outer space is any distance between people.