Critics’ Picks

Brigid Berlin, Untitled (Self-Portrait Double Exposure with Refridgerator), 1971-73, polaroid, 4 1/8 x 3 1/3".

Brigid Berlin, Untitled (Self-Portrait Double Exposure with Refridgerator), 1971-73, polaroid, 4 1/8 x 3 1/3".

New York

Brigid Berlin

89 Eldridge Street
October 9–November 15, 2015

With charm and concision, “It’s All About Me” captures former Warhol superstar and high-society black sheep Brigid Berlin’s spirit of obsession and excess—as an artist, a documenter, and a personality. A vitrine of archival material in the center of the space situates her as a major figure of Factory lore. In addition to some absorbing typewritten correspondence and a group of her gold-embossed photobooks from 1970 (one is titled DRELLA, and the one beside it is called ROAST BEEF AND BRUSSEL SPROUT), there’s a case of carefully labeled cassette tapes, her recorded conversations with Warhol and the art-world luminaries in his extended circle. There’s also a sexy and telling photo of Berlin photographing herself. Unsmiling, a couple of Marilyn screen prints on the wall behind her, she holds a Polaroid camera up as a fur shrug or throw exposes most of one breast.

She appears topless frequently in her work, and the unframed cluster of Tit Prints, 1995–96, on the gallery’s west wall celebrates this. Funny, colorful, and crafty in a good way, they are just what they sound like—her inky or paint-covered tits pressed against paper in pairs or patterns. The main event here, though, is the wonderful selection of Berlin’s Polaroid self-portraits, including many of her dreamy double-exposure works. In one of my favorites, Untitled (Self-Portrait Double-Exposure with Refrigerator), 1971–73, her serious face floats among European dairy products and cans of mandarin oranges. These proto-selfies—sorry—are devoid of the banal if understandable desire to make oneself look “good.” Vanity is secondary or nonexistent here, sacrificed for the thrill of her unpredictable technical trick and the suspenseful magic minutes as the self-developing film gradually delivers ghostly silhouettes, then a rush of detail. In spite of this, or probably because of it, Berlin does look really good, with her chubby, freckled face and limp hair, pointing her jaw slightly up into the lens with blank panache.