Critics’ Picks

Anthea Hamilton, Natural Livin’ Boot, 2015, leather, lichen, cauliflower, resin, ceramic, 9 x 12 x 18".

Anthea Hamilton, Natural Livin’ Boot, 2015, leather, lichen, cauliflower, resin, ceramic, 9 x 12 x 18".

New York

Anthea Hamilton

44-19 Purves Street
September 20, 2015–January 4, 2016

“Lichen! Libido! Chastity!” Anthea Hamilton’s debut solo museum exhibition in the US is an arrangement replete with ostensibly handcrafted objects that engage desire and fetish. Such discrete works include suites of knobby eating utensils, precarious chastity belts, and flamboyant knee-high boots. Here, parts of everyday life are taken as whole—that is, as whole worlds of their own—in which marketing, pleasure, design, and biology influence the objects’ composition and comprehension.

Of the five boot sculptures on view, Natural Livin’ Boot (all works 2015) is a droll pastiche of earthy-chic media that befits its gimmicky title: Crusted, peeling leather and flaky lichen clusters decorate this chunky-heel platform shoe, and its knee-high shaft is permeated with pebbles. Two works of a similar silhouette, Holistic Towel Platform Boot A/W and Holistic Towel Platform Boot S/S, embody a slightly more fab aesthetic that adheres printed terry cloth to towering leather shafts stuffed with silk scarves. Hamilton juxtaposes recognizable goods with extravagant flourishes of design and construction, trading codes of functionality for an aura that engages viewer desire—under scrutiny, these objects stir an unresolved, immiscible tension of attraction and repulsion.

Mutation is a unifying thread across the artist’s output, whether it references the material shifts her objects embody, the stream of appropriation between pop and counterculture, or the transformative nature of lichen. Three chastity belts are hung with chain link from the ceiling, resembling perverse swing sets. 1st Guimard Chastity Belt (Leather Twist) fuses elegant lavender leather against the belt’s stainless steel frame. 2nd Guimard Chastity Belt (Metal Twist) showcases a subtle but piercing steel talon jutting from the girdle’s nether regions. This exhibition’s press release remarks on how the works installed are seen as “intimately binding the body to products and things.” But perhaps the reverse is true: Hamilton sportively flings off these objects from their instrumental roles in life to create wild forms that appear, in some cases, as protean as desire itself.