Critics’ Picks

Allison Schulnik, Eager, 2014, clay stop-motion animated video, 8 minutes, 25 seconds.

Allison Schulnik, Eager, 2014, clay stop-motion animated video, 8 minutes, 25 seconds.

New York

Allison Schulnik

505 W 27th St #5
January 9–February 22, 2014

Shit is death but also life—the stuff of waste and resurrection. Georges Bataille quite acutely understood this material’s deeply mortal qualities. So does Allison Schulnik. In “Eager,” her second solo exhibition at this space, the artist gives us ceramic sculptures, paintings, and a breathtaking new stop-motion puppet video that seems extracted from an imagination preoccupied by the numinous characteristics of nature’s various cycles, rife with sunshine and scat.

Schulnik’s ceramics have a careless, expressionistic facture that one sees plenty of in contemporary clay artworks. But her energy is decidedly different, as the objects feel more masticated rather than handmade. Pieces such as Boneless Horse, a tiny gelding perched atop a hideous dun table, its tumescent penis stunted forever by rigor mortis, and Alizarin Flower, both 2013, an efflorescent posy luscious with a nectar that is very likely pus, seem caught up in a grinding state somewhere between bloom and decay.

Eager, 2014, the titular work of this show, not to mention its stunning centerpiece, is the fourth stop-motion animation Schulnik has created—she debuted her first fourteen years ago. It is also, at eight minutes and thirty seconds, her longest to date (and no wonder, as each elaborately constructed doll within the video—there are more than sixty-five of them—was made by hand solely by the artist). In it, phantomlike creatures move about with the halting grace of Martha Graham dancers or dying birds. And then there are pale men and carnal flowers that disembowel and consume one another with a casual sort of cruelty, while more flowers turn into bleeding eyes that become attenuated faces with fathomless maws full of tentacles and teeth. But the most amazing transformation? Schulnik’s ability to spin the nastiness of this world—its bloodiness, barbarism, and utter indifference to our petty needs or comforts—into pure enchantment.