The Cured: Group Show
Curated by Tansy Xiao
June 7 - August 11, 2019
By JONATHAN GOODMAN, June 2019
“The Cured” is an exhibition keyed both to the body and to biology. Arranged by Tansy Xiao, an increasingly recognized young curator, the show is composed of works by five artists: Suzanne Anker, Kathy High, Pablo Garcia Lopez, Anh Thuy Nguyen, and Eva Petric. Radiator Galley is known for taking chances, and as this show attests, the works by these young artists are challenging predictable modes of expression, in ways that look askance at how we make images representing our physical being. The body in “The Cured” is not usually present in a traditionally figurative manner; instead, it suggested as a fragment, symbolically, or even by text. It is necessary to recognize the importance of the body in our current culture, obsessed as we are with gender, sexuality, and the medical community’s ability to transform these issues to some extent by medicine and surgery. At the same time, the study of biology is sharply evident in this group of works, making it clear that a merger between current research processes and artistic intuition can serve as a precedent for extraordinary works of art.
Suzanne Anker, who is well known for her work at the intersection of art and science, is presenting photos of stem cells isolated against a dark background. Stem Cells, Anker’s 2004 inkjet print, presents photos of undifferentiated stem, which are master cells capable of growing into any of the more than 200 cell types existing in the body (their use in medical research was considered controversial a while ago). The images, four rows of five, are startlingly organic--from one to the other, the images vary a lot; their rounded white forms contrast sharply with the dark background against which the photos of the cells have been taken. There is visual interest here, but it is accentuated by our knowledge of the stem cells’ function. Kathy High, an interdisciplinary artist now teaching at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, has offered Burial Globes: Rat Models (2009), an elegiac, if also emotionally detached, piece to mice sacrificed for research. Four banners list the kind of mouse sacrificed and the research it was used for. In the space in the middle between the banners is a glass cover inside of which are High’s small collection of burial globes--glass spheres with the mice’s ashes collected inside them. The work eulogizes an animal population casually experimented on, without fairness or consideration.
Garcia Lopez has a doctorate in neurosciences from a university in Madrid, and an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute, College of Arts. His sculptural work--the boxed reliefs, four inches deep and made of silk, filament, and fabric--consists of forms that are entirely white. The imagery, a complex array of figures and abstract effects, is generated through three- dimensional printing. It looks a lot like a deep-set retablo, a scene of intense (if also, in this case, abstract) devotion. Garcia Lopez is also showing a very good black-and-white video of human cells repeatedly dividing; made with his wife, who also has a doctorate in the neurosciences, the sequence feels like an abstract narrative told with organic forms. Nguyen, from Vietnam, holds an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. Her sculpture is an body-oriented conundrum whose overall composition is intelligent and implicitly sexual. Carry On from Both Sides (2018) consists of a two-sided tinted silicone and red fabric screen hung from a metal frame more than five feet tall. Attached to one side of the frame is a contraption, in which two flesh-colored silicone shoulder caps (which can also be seen as breasts), are connected by a metal strip to an open belt. Nguyen’s sculpture remains abstract but fused with personal meaning. Its aura is determined as much by absence as by presence. The work is made rich in suggestion by its carefully measured distance between the absence and presence of the body and contrasting of soft and hard materials. It also brings forth an erotic ambience. While not providing easy comprehension, Carry On from Both Sides asks the spectator to imagine herself within the object to understand its function.
Eva Petric, the last artist to be mentioned, is Slovenian but works mostly in New York and Vienna. Her art might be seen as the most traditional of the lot; her piece here, called MINDing the Collagen (2015), consists of a canopy of handmade lacework that hangs from a ceiling. Beneath it, in a small glass box engraved by the artist, is an actual heart, reduced to red and white threads. Petric has also included a sound sculpture of her own heart beating. The work edges in the direction of pure feeling, one of the artist’s major strengths. At the same time, the intimacy is close to overwhelming, placing her audience in a physical confidence that is slightly unnerving. But maybe that is the point. Petric’s gift indicates the body’s ability to present closeness and emotion--when we use our as a subject matter, we are talking about ourselves. Biology, a more difficult theme, proves how it evidences possibilities of ardor we don’t usually see in science. So the show is more than a medical novelty; it is an epiphany in which bodies become conduits for intuitions that are so new as not to be thought possible. But there they are.