Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Bunch of Artists at Lawndale

There is a long tradition in the work of women artists of depictions of the vagina with various degrees of abstraction (think Georgia O'Keefe, Judy Chicago). A sub-category of this kind of art would be enormous sculptural depictions of said genitalia. I have decided to call this Gigantic Vagina art. Obviously the foremother of this genre of Niki de Saint Phalle. In her artist's statement, Monica Vidal does not mention or imply the word word "vagina." But look at this piece and tell me it isn't a prime example of Gigantic Vagina art.

Monica Vidal
Monica Vidal, Tumor Hive, plywood, fiberglass rod, fabric, 2008-2009

In this show, she also has a costume (meant to recall a distinctly unpleasant Aztec ritual of wearing a suit of flayed skin until it rotted off--she can be seen wearing her modern felt version on her Facebook page) and some drawings. But the Tumor Hive overwhelms everything else--as you would expect a Gigantic Vagina to do. It's an elaborate and rather beautiful structure.

Kia Neill has created for Lawndale an artificial cavern. (Ironically, you have to take an elevator up to see it.)

Kia Neill
Kia Neill, Grotto, papier mache, chicken wire, blinking lights, 2009

It's really quite dark--the only light are the shining "gems" encrusted in the wall. I kept expecting a Sleestak to jump out. What it really reminded me of (and I think this is in line with Neill's intent) were the cave-like environments at Astroworld when I was a kid. They used some kind of sparkly substance to build their ultra-fake cave simulacra. But for a kid from Houston--land of no hills, rocks, or caves, they were magic. A little of that magic comes back in Neill's Grotto.

I liked Jasmyne Graybill's creeps-inducing mold sculptures at The Big Show, and I like them here.

Jasmyne Graybill
Jasmyne Graybill, Gestation, latex and flock, 2009

Graybill teaches art at Sam Houston State, and I am informed by a mutual friend that she is kind of a clean freak. Not someone with a natural love for mold cultures. I think what appeals (and repels) is the combination of the mold's alienness and its sci-fi tendency to take over whatever object it has started growing on.

Jasmyne Graybill
Jasmyne Graybill, Unknown Specimens (detail), polymer clay, 2009

The last one I liked was  this big installation, Vicious Venue, by Shawn Smith. It seems that Smith's main work is creating three-dimensional sculptural objects that look like pixelated images of real things. In this installation, he has created a coroner's office from the 1930s or 40s that basically looks completely normal--you walk in as if you were the coroner in 1935. But scattered about the room are vultures--life-size vultures, depicted as pixelated images.

Shawn Smith
Shawn Smith, Vicous Venue, furniture, office objects, balsa wood, 2009

Here is one of the pixelated vultures up close.

Shawn Smith
Shawn Smith, Vulture on Coatrack (wings up), balsa wood, ink, acrylic paint and coatrack, 2009

He says in his statement that he is interested in relating electronic images back to "things," and obviously that is part of what's going on here. But only part. We have this period office (which appears to be a coroner's office--not just a generic place of work) being attacked by vulture images from the future--I don't know what that means to Smith, but it seems very specific.

Lots of great stuff at Lawndale. I'm not sure how long it's all going to be up--but the next show opens on December 2, so I wouldn't delay in checking these installations out.


  1. I don't think that you can call Monica Vidal's artwork art ! My 10 year old son is more imaginative than this ! I really hope people don't spend their money on a show as low as this.

  2. Well, admission to Lawndale is free, even for philistines.

  3. Oddly, I was looking for information on writing an artist statement for MFA applications and was attracted to your site because of the image of Monica Vidal's work, it happened to pop up along with how to pages in a great pink dome. I enjoyed this post, I too have seen Kia Niell's work at Women and Their Work in Austin, Texas. And the work by Shawn Smith is relatable as well. I think several artists including myself are exploring what is happening as society enters an age where the consumption of ideas and objects is rapidly taking over how we view our everyday lives through tangible and digital forms.