Electric Mayhem: Caroline Wells Chandler and Jennifer Coates
Crush Curatorial, Chelsea, NY
May 24 - June 23, 2018
In Frank L. Baum's translucent American dream book Ozma of Oz (1907), Princess Langwidere has a chamber filled with heads that she can attach to her body. Jennifer Coates recent work feels like she is able to approach an existing subject or genre of painting but with another head on. Her last show was of trees. But not "of" any where or "of" any species. As if "trees" were just another idea in one of her heads. Caroline Wells Chandler too approaches pop imagery but with a knitter's head on.
These two artists are interesting enough on their own but their collaborations at Crush Curatorial fills this small gallery with a high key, mad, sexiness -- conjoined bodies wearing more heads than the Hydra.
American women appear to be able to carry fond characters from childhood into adulthood. Cats, stuffed animals and cartoon critters are meant to be seen ironically, of course. But they are not gutted of affectionate feelings in the process. American men don't seem able to do this; at puberty their loved cuddly objects remade as kitsch, suffer from sarcastic indifference . Compare Hello Kitty t-shirts on young women and say, the recent use of sloths in memes and on t-shirts. Funny for the oddness more than for the furriness.
In Coates and Chandler's collaborative drawings they push each other to higher and weirder climes in these think-ettes of comics, indie-porn, psychedelic disco covers, '90s rave flyers, and God knows what-all. It's not of a secret act in a secret place spied on by the artists. It's out in the open in an imaginary world (part video game, part children's book, part hallucination) that are on ostentatious display. Vaginas are splayed, creatures dance by in bobbing brightly coloured strap ons. Areseholes are up on view.
The penises are sometimes crayons, sock puppets or rockets. Hilarious dildos, perhaps (dildos can be humorous) Everything is on display. (See image top.)
This drawing reminds me of the Sheelagh Na Gig, the Celtic pussy-opening goddess of fertility seen on Medieval churches.
The artists reject gender binary constructs. Pro forma sexual acts. The immediately non-sexual drawings are filled with eyes.
Look at what your body sees, stop thinking about what you think you want.
"If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called 'sex' is as culturally constructed as gender." Judith Butler
This drawing is an extrapolation on a childhood favorite Frog and Toad book series. But here one of them has become a set of brown skinned testicles.
So why is there no penetration, no actual acts of intimacy here? They read more as sigils of sexual energy. The body leading the way.
Jennifer and Caroline's paintings and drawings are displays of sex but not of fucking. They are not about what is desirable as much as they are about what is possible.
They flip the familiar maxim so that it reads: "Free your body and your mind will follow." - Millree Hughes