A review of "Antibody" at the Lisa Cooley Gallery
Over the last few weeks, the Lisa Cooley Gallery held an intriguing group exhibition: Antibody – an exploration of the absent body. In direct opposition to Body Art, bodies in this exhibit are “mediated and extended by technology and completely commodified.” The presentation dissolves the human body into image or object, reflecting subconscious anxieties about the disappearance of the self.
Key to Musee’s interest is the exploration of the Antibody in photography. The exhibition description states “photography is uniquely suited to flattening and objectifying the body.” Indeed, the photographic process transforms the physical form into a two-dimensional object, an image that can be altered, commodified and digitally dispersed.
By far the most intriguing and startling element of the exhibition was a series of photographic sculptures by Anthea Hamilton in collaboration with fashion designer and illustrator Julie Verhoeven. Entitled Fruity Seating, the artist transposed images of female nudes onto brightly colored prints of fruit, vegetables, cheese and other edibles. These prints were then wrapped over rectangular blocks of varying sizes and shapes, creating benches made of female bodies.
The work presents contradictory ideas about the body and the female form. On the one hand, the body is indeed flattened by the photographic process, yet by rendering the image sculpturally, the body becomes once again three-dimensional, albeit in a manipulated form.
The work was originally installed around the Berryfield Mosaic, an artifact dating back to 150 AD, which served as a dinning room floor of a Roman townhouse. The work thus suggests the way in which the female body has been constantly altered, manipulated, transformed and commodified over the course of art history.
By surrounding the nudes with images of food, the work suggests the female image as a product to be consumed, an idea that has became increasingly relevant with the proliferation of the female image in pornography, fashion photography and tabloids across the web and other media. By transforming the image into a bench, an object, the artist presents a literal representation of the objectification of the female form.
With the cartoonish, colorful quality of the prints contrasting with the black and white nudes, the artist presents a humorous yet provocative look at the body as object phenomenon. The work bends boundaries and refuses classification: it is both sculptural and photographic, rectilinear yet full of curves. The piece allows the viewer to observe the body in a new context, to re-examine the photographic process and contemplate and question the ideologies, assumptions and provocations that surround the female form.
Images and text by Oscar Lopez