Critics’ Picks

View of “Body Language,” 2017.

View of “Body Language,” 2017.

New York

“Body Language”

145 Elizabeth Street
April 20–May 21, 2017

The body, in its irrationality and potential for extinction, overwhelms language. This group show, with its melancholic and liberatory overtones, gestures toward that idea. Forcing a strict divide between language and movement, niv Acosta’s digital film Clapback, 2016, brings together sequences from a performance that debuted at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. Part of the video presents questions accompanied by house music. The queries alternate between the stuff of social-media surveys (“Kissed any of your Facebook friends?” “Slept in until 5PM?”) to items directed toward specific identity groups (“Do you have more than one black friend?” “Fled from your country of origin?”). A list of names—the victims of police violence—flash in staccato, which are then abruptly replaced by a slowed-down view of Acosta from the back, twerking for minutes against an animated outer-space background. The artist memorializes the dead through physical, eroticized labor.

Visions of the future become interlaced with humor and nostalgia in Jacolby Satterwhite’s collaborations with his late mother, Patricia. He pairs family photos with her drawings of imaginary QVC products, made as part of her psychotherapy program. In the video The Matriarch’s Rhapsody, 2012, Satterwhite animates his mother’s hand-drawn designs—sometimes practical (an electric pencil sharpener), sometimes absurd (a “cock on wheels”)—as rotating, three-dimensional forms. Sometimes he demonstrates her inventions while vogueing in fantastical getups. A similarly hand-made, searching sensibility infuses Tschabalala Self’s mixed-media work Flower Girl, 2017, in which a voluptuous female figure and its dark shadow sprout delicate blossoms from their mouths, craned skyward in a laugh or scream.

Jimmy DeSana’s Cibachrome photographs lit in juicy, saturated colors—private performances for the camera that recall burlesque and punk ballet—anchor these younger artists in a lineage of queer aesthetics. DeSana’s untimely death from AIDS in 1990 is a sobering reminder of the way othered bodies become both politicized and precarious.