Critics’ Picks

Caitlin Cherry, Domain Vague (Art McGee), 2020, oil on canvas, 59 x 101".

Caitlin Cherry, Domain Vague (Art McGee), 2020, oil on canvas, 59 x 101".

Los Angeles

Caitlin Cherry

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
2685 South La Cienega Blvd.
June 30–October 10, 2020

The oil paintings and digital collages in Caitlin Cherry’s online show Corps Sonore call forth a phantasmagorical nightclub harboring cliques of bionic sirens bathed in an opulent, rippling iridescence. Sourced from social media feeds, Cherry’s reimagined subjects embody a specific ideal of Black femme beauty associated with rappers, exotic dancers, and glamour models—women whose efforts are frequently disparaged, ignored, and, in some instances, even criminalized. In the paintings, Cherry distorts her protagonists’ bodies with moiré swirls, cryptic numerals, and disjunctive blocks of vivid color—it feels as though her ladies are trapped behind malfunctioning phone screens or obscured by polychromatic light shows. Domain Vague (Art McGee) (all works 2020) could be an Afrofuturist counter to Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The passcode-like numerical string in the composition’s center reads as a riddle questioning who exerts influence over the women’s meticulously styled image.

Paintings reproduced online may diminish the verve of Cherry’s brushwork, but her Photoshopped collages (many of which are studies) give her imaginary world a whole other dimension. Allusions to technology and transaction are most direct in these digital pieces, which portray dancers surrounded by bricks of cash, name-brand liquors, and books on cultural theory, including Helen Hester’s Xenofeminism and Ruha Benjamin’s Race After Technology. Facsimiles of Cherry’s canvases adorn walls inside the collages, highlighting her art’s role in the cycle of gazing and being observed. In a rather empty-looking lounge (Wilhelm Scream), a dominatrix sits atop a woman trussed up like the figure in Allen Jones’s Chair, 1969. But they aren’t alone: A cartoony, goblin-like white dude jumps out from behind a painting, while a menacing entity surveils the room from a giant window. Suddenly you realize that you, too, have become a sedulous voyeur, watching all this unfold from the comfort of your own screen.