'Biomorphic Virtuosity' at Jessica Silverman Gallery
New work from Isaac Julien is featured in "Biomorphic Virtuosity," a three-person exhibition about the present tense and multiple futures of the human body. Through paintings by Christina Quarles, sculptures by Aleksandra Domanović, and a video and collages by Julien, the show explores the relationship between animal and machine, environmentalism, virtuoso aesthetics and novel forms of beauty.
Isaac Julien's "Radioactive" new photographic collages (2018) riff on his film "Encore II: Radioactive" (2004). Both are inspired by Octavia Butler's science fiction classic "The Parable of the Sower." Butler's gripping tale is about a cyborg who has just lost her husband and son in a final World War where the Earth is being destroyed by an atomic fire. Julien's film and collages follow this solitary heroine, exploring her "mixed race" of human and mechanical origins, through a solarized landscape. Julien's application of gold and silver foil shifts the work beyond the photographic into a compelling terrain of hybrid materiality.
Aleksandra Domanović's work weaves together ancient art history, contemporary popular culture and cutting-edge scientific research.
Kalbträgerin (2017), which means "calf bearer" in German, consists of a rectangular red column, crowned with a baby bull whose legs are held by slender human arms. The sculpture is inspired by an ancient Greek statue, depicting the sacrificial offering of a calf to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Relevant to the puzzling meaning of the work are two details: Domanović's calf is hornless, the result of genetic modification; and the column is inscribed with an ensō or circular Zen symbol of enlightenment and unceasing transformation. Genetic transformation is also at issue in The Fly (2017), a stacked paper triptych, which draws from David Cronenberg's sci-fi film where flawed experiments in teleportation lead the main character to splice his own DNA with that of a fly. Together, Domanović's works raise questions about reproduction, mutation and the natural versus the engineered.
Christina Quarles' paintings are sensuous studies of human entanglement, which display a dazzling range of painting styles and an uncanny sense of inside-out space. Working with a bright spectrum of color that sometimes bleeds into the raw canvas, Quarles deploys a broad range of creative tools, including brushes, combs, rubber forks, X-ACTO knives, tape, and odd-ball utensils from 99 cent stores. The figures are painted from strong memories, rather than live models or photographs, which results in works with a haunted or active sense of timelessness.
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