Critics’ Picks

Anna Ostoya, Holofernes Slaying Holofernes, 2016, oil on canvas, 78 1/2 x 62''.

Anna Ostoya, Holofernes Slaying Holofernes, 2016, oil on canvas, 78 1/2 x 62''.

New York

Anna Ostoya

Bortolami Gallery
520 West 20th Street
February 25–April 23, 2016

There’s something spectral bouncing around the various pieces installed in this gallery. It’s left behind a flurry of questions that all lead to one very particular origin: Artemisia Gentileschi’s famous Baroque work Judith Slaying Holofernes, ca. 1620, which Anna Ostoya has cleverly dissected through an eclectic assortment of hard-edged paintings and ink-jet prints.

Ostoya’s display is akin to a detective’s evidence wall. She dismantles the Italian artist’s painting and reimagines alternative scenarios for the gruesome biblical story we can see, which has merged with the real-life rape of Gentileschi we can only imagine. Ostoya begins with allusions to Picasso—one of modernism’s more famous misogynists—in the geometric patterning of her paintings, such as Holofernes Slaying Holofernes (all works 2016). In the adjacent room are primarily photomontages, some of which seem to be tributes to Georgia O’Keeffe, the one most obvious being Sheets and a Hand, where the titular elements dissolve into each other, creating elegant curves that look like flowers and female genitalia. Two Faces, Judith and a Robot, however, is punctuated with dark humor, as it features a robot’s head superimposed on a woman’s face, resulting in a disturbing hybrid creature.

Two Faces, A Model and an Actress unravels the complex duality of human nature. The actress’s arresting gasp blends into the model’s serene porcelain face, resulting in a two-faced, one-headed monster. And it seems we’ve come to the core of the show: The demon that haunts the space from the moment we walk in spins well out of control, and points to the Holofernes inside all of us.