Fragments – The Brooklyn Rail

to see

Candice Madey
March 17 – April 16, 2022
new York

Sculptors Siobhan Liddell and Linda Matalon bring to life the shared spaces between people and the spaces they leave behind. In this exhibition of drawings, sculptures and ephemera, she revisits Matalon’s 1991 sculpture slope II and arriving in the present with Liddell’s 2019 nobody’s world, Rooms are tagged with stories of sadness, love and ecstasy. Curator Ksenia Soboleva weaves the practices of these two artists into and out of the overarching backdrop of the AIDS epidemic, bringing an overlooked but important lesbian presence into a well-worn art history. The exhibition does not end with AIDS: it follows the artist’s work (especially Liddell’s) well into the 21st century, providing a lens through which to follow their practices.

Linda Matalon’s wire mesh and wax vessel, slope II (1991), the exhibition begins: The wax is malleable and lightly soiled with sand and dirt (in this case tar), referencing the fragility and bruises of the human body. His presentation, hanging limply from a wire, is an explicit invocation of humiliation, but also involves a kinetic freedom of movement. Her drawings explore the physics of snagging, hanging, and wobbling through pulsing graphite lines, oil stains, and shiny amorphous smudges of glue, initially culminating in the preparatory drawing Untitled (1992), a series of dangling and twisting, eerily bulbous undulating tubes, and then in the seminal 1993 sculpture Goodbye to all my drag queens. Goodbye to all my drag queens is a series of ten long, limb-like objects hanging on a wall, the left half of which is black and the right half is beige. These shapes are more regular than those in the drawing, reminiscent of stockings or trousers, but like the drawings, they read as both tortured tubes and legs, and represent the simplest diagram of a living – or dying – being.

Siobhan Liddell’s life fragments begin in this exhibition with her 1998 series of bronze sculptures: Spaces Between Two Bodies (two works of the same name), Between Two Bodies (also two works of the same name) and Plaster Break (1998). Cataloging the negative space around and between living human forms, these works express both a joyful interaction as we imagine bodies rolling around in joy and love, and the relics of something that was once there but is now gone . A second train of thought is inherent in Liddell’s reflections on light – first in her glass rods (1994), a set of four solid glass cylinders of varying widths, lengths, and shades of blue installed on the floor, reminiscent of Walter De Maria The broken kilometer (1979), but on an individual and luminous human scale. During Body and Break Sculptures are about clinging to the space of intimacy, glass rods is about capturing light in a tangible object. Liddell further explored light during a stint at the American Academy in Rome, where she became obsessed with the oculus of the pantheon, represented here by the four handprint (2012) prints – a scan of a hand with a roughly cut oculus revealing a variety of meaningful images – an eye, the Pantheon oculus, etc. nobody’s world (2019) is a simple diorama – Liddell has punched a round hole in a free-standing, accordion-folded photograph of a hand reaching out and grasping something – the oculus. The photograph stands upright on a wooden base, a momentary sculpture framing an ever-changing circular window.

I was lucky enough to moderate a discussion between Liddell, Matalon and Soboleva Brooklyn Rails New Social Environment Episode No. 530. The juxtaposition of various works by the artists, particularly the placement of their work, was particularly striking for Matalon par (1997) alongside Break by Liddell. par is a set of two trapezoidal wire baskets and Break is a pair of wall-hanging casts/imprints created from the negative space between two bodies; one form white, one form black. The two materialized groups of spaces are emblematic of the artists’ different but deeply connected methods of dealing with absence – Matalon is porous and ephemeral, while Liddell seeks to freeze and capture the moment. The exhibition is full of these moments that do not provoke the eye to compare the two artists, but invite us to look at them from different perspectives. It is deeply moving that these two perspectives are revisited, intertwined and contextualized in this exhibition.

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