Critics’ Picks

View of “Athena Papadopoulos: Belladona’s Muse,” 2017.

View of “Athena Papadopoulos: Belladona’s Muse,” 2017.


Athena Papadopoulos

via Ricciotti 4
March 17–May 30, 2017

Crossing the threshold of the space, viewers are wooed by an enveloping atmosphere of red and pink. Part of the show’s title, the term “Belladonna” has connotations as numerous as the properties that characterize the homonymous plant: It can be therapeutic or sedative if taken in small quantities; cosmetic if applied in the form of eye drops, which, by expanding the pupil, can make the eyes seem shinier; or noxious and even lethal if ingested in higher doses. Athena Papadopoulos has constructed an exhibition of contrasting ideas to parallel this flora’s connotations, with beauty and disgust delineating a physical and mental journey toward a private, visceral, apotropaic dimension.

Shapeless legs, in pairs or alone, crowd and invade the gallery space, either resting on the wall like two girlfriends waiting around (Stumpin’ & Bumpin, 2015) or suspended in the air (Gurney I, 2017). The works are composed of photographic and hand-drawn elements, T-shirt transfers, and textile supports, resulting in layered collages that sometimes enfold the sculptures and at other times hang from artificial branches like tanned skins left out to dry. Orphaned pieces of absent bodies, they wink at the work of Hans Bellmer and Sarah Lucas. The artist exorcises fear and includes autobiographical references, such as ones to her father, a ladies’ man, and her grandmother, who lost a leg to gangrene.

During the opening, some elderly women gathered together in one of the rooms to assemble things using costume jewelry. The small objects they wove together attest the value of manual labor and the social interactions such collaboration generates, while also serving as salable souvenirs, thus spreading the memory of the show beyond the gallery.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.