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Rebecca Warren at Matthew Marks

There's something afoot in Rebecca Warren's current show, a dozen sculptures collected under the potentially snarky title, Feelings. With élan, Warren negotiates an avalanche of references, disrupting the history of art and destabilizing archetypes of the feminine. The work can make you uncomfortable; it upends art history's predominate envisioning of the feminine as sexuality in repose, as a force of monstrous hysteria, or as mother. To this, Warren adds an overarching theme of descent: Tease this terminology to open a formalist critique of the downward effects of gravity on material, an allegorical descent from the cross, the anthropological descent of man, a reproductive descent into menopause and erectile dysfunction, etc.

However we categorize Warren's subject, the literal descent is felt materially in the sculpture, followed by spatially, beginning with the show-stopping, monstrous brassy form (a sort of top heavy stalagmite with breasts) working downward. Roughly half of the show is devoted to the punchy figures that exploit Warren's fascination with the heft of clay. These are larger than life legs and thighs, tits and ass. She's gouged and pinched them to resolution -- pushing them up and pulling them down. One torso-less figure's vagina has literally descended to the knees.

The show's big twist is its planer works. The cold, domestic sized COR-TEN steel sculptures suggest masculine, egomaniacal modernism stripped of its potency. Two have cotton fluffs on upturned ends (Playboy bunnies?) while a third hangs limp on the side of its pedestal. They're distant cousins - a teacup variety of Goliath, outdoor sculpture.

Warren is pitting Venus of Willendorf against Richard Serra and in so doing, our expectations of the forms of the feminine are dissolved whole. Her critique does not simply displace the masculine for the feminine. One senses a powerful wave of controlled rage, a reaction to Victorianism, and a punkish dissatisfaction with the representation of a sex.

Anthony Pearson at Marianne Boesky.

A poetic, inside-out thinking runs through Anthony Pearson's show at Marianne Boesky. Pearson's work (attentively grouped photographs and sculptures) wouldn't be out of place lodged early in last century, fitted within the transatlantic avant-garde of the thirties.

This generates a peculiar vibe. There are what he's termed flares: a set of door-sized vertical photographs. These have the look of a photogram but are the result of a light leak in his camera. They are the view from within the mechanics of the camera. This poetic spark nails the moment when everything happens in photography –a bright metaphor for the moment of exposure, complete with the illustration of anxiety (crack in camera) in realizing an image. Imaging occurs within the machine but is not about an object in front of the lens.

Arranged alongside Pearson's flares are Brancusian sculptures; these are a crystalline display of a void materialized analogizing the lack of objects in the photographs. The box-like bronzes are seemingly the inside-view of a poured cast, complete with mushrooming spillage.

But it's a set of weirdo, aluminum foil, double negative, solarized prints that really strike a cord. The small, expressive prints are suggestive. To my mind, the history of solarization has built into it the story of a poetic and predatory love affair turned inside out. Lee Miller invented solarization while sleeping with Man Ray (who exploited the technique), and Miller is the subject of Man Ray's solarized prints - this dovetails for a unique formula where the within is outed: a private affair publicized. As all successful shows do, this one makes intuitive, logical and historical sense, consecutively with method and subject.

Rebecca Warren's work is on view through October 24, 2009 at
Matthew Marks Gallery.  
All images are courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery.

Anthony Pearson's work was on view September 11 - October 10, 2009 at
Marianne Boesky Gallery.  
All images are courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery.

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