Critics’ Picks

“View of Alyse Emdur: Skunks and Flowers,” 2018.

“View of Alyse Emdur: Skunks and Flowers,” 2018.

Los Angeles

Alyse Emdur

7101 North Figueroa Street Unit E
January 13–March 4, 2018

The works in Alyse Emdur’s exhibition are a tiling of Pop art textiles and bold graphics, with most from a series titled “Skunks and Flowers,” 2017–18. The abundance of india ink and matte acrylic-based gouache drawings plastered on the walls elicits comparisons to both the patterns of a groovy 1960s American girl’s outfits and the illustrative satire of French cartoonists like Tomi Ungerer. What we witness here is redolent of a teenager’s self-consciously decorated bedroom, papered over with magazine clippings and political posters. Peppered throughout are texts of the kind that a housebound mother of midcentury America might have referenced—self-help maxims and chestnuts from parenting books about teaching children coping mechanisms for dealing with death. The final inhabitants of Emdur’s burrow, also a place where trauma might breed, are skunks which interrupt the optimism of the suburban imagery.

The artist plays to our senses, luring us in with a hedonistic display of motifs and color that calls forth nostalgia for an exalted, yet still troublesome, era. Then, as soon as we are aroused by the cosmetic amusement of the work, that little black-and-white mephitis marches in and threatens (or eroticizes, depending) the space with evocations of odor and anal play, turning a docile domestic scene rabid.

This is the room of an isolated human, a Cassavetes woman under the influence, stuck in a closed circuit of domestic intelligence. Any good housewife knows that a stinky room is embarrassing. Bad smells are for the low class or the unwell. And simply masking the odor won’t do. The disagreeable scents of the domicile must be eliminated. The solution? One large noxious exhale.