Critics’ Picks

View of “Camilla Wills: Driven by Thoughts,” 2017.

New York

Camilla Wills

Chapter NY
249 East Houston Street
February 19 - March 19

Camilla Wills’s current exhibition has all the dark cheer of a Victorian orphanage. The show exudes the kind of artifice and perversity one would find in a posh nineteenth-century parlor. Block the Windows and Change the Date, 2017, is a piece of cloth blacking out the gallery’s windows. The year 2016 is laser cut into a pattern on the fabric. This gesture—an act of disavowal or merely a decorative preference—shutters the gallery and allows us to experience daylight as an endless repetition of yesteryear. Neatly stuffed into a filing-cabinet drawer is Press Release, 2016–17, a self-portrait made from a wedding dress silk-screened with press releases written in lorem ipsum, a filler or dummy text used by graphic designers. The dress resembles Pierrot’s leotard and frames the social contract between artist and audience as a fool’s game. Wills loves to baffle and does it with a straight face. Even the actual press release for the show is enigmatic, containing lines such as “Readability is against expression.” The artist’s associations—poetic, ersatz—rattle language’s hold on meaning. She is a printmaker par excellence as well, and the medium’s ubiquity here compounds her destabilization of the world-making power of words.

The purgatorial Contract of Indeterminate Duration, 2017, is a bedsheet ghost that surveys the gallery on a rotating motor. In two pockets, the phantom carries Oblivion Seekers, 2017, a pair of empty birds nests. Wills’s unified object is simultaneously self-possessed and vulnerable. It seems to ask, “Do you believe in ghosts?”