Critics’ Picks

Carlos Motta, Towards a Homoerotic Historiography #1 #6, 2013, gold-washed silver, 1/2 x 19/32 x 3/8". From the series “Towards a Homoerotic Historiography,”

New York

Carlos Motta

535 West 22nd Street Third Floor
April 21 - May 21

Carlos Motta is a necromancer. His practice involves a kind of communion with the archive, animating its traces in order to call forth the nearly moribund histories of queers of color. Hermaphrodite (8), from the series “Beloved Martina,” 2016, is a haunting 3-D-printed statuette in Greco-Roman style, based on a photograph by Nadar. Martina was a woman who, in 1803, was put on trial for hermaphroditism in a Colombian court. She is also one of the protagonists in another work, Motta’s apparitional film, Deseos, 2015. In it, Martina and a woman called Nour carry on a fictional epistolary correspondence—the former in Suesca, the latter, Beirut—surrounded by elegiac landscapes, visceral scenes of ruins, and a crucified Christ. This work, a documentary-fiction hybrid, places the viewer within a liminal space, transmogrifying the familiar into the uncanny.

Tiny silver figurines, washed in gold and tumbaga (a gold and copper alloy), are organized with taxonomical precision in “Towards a Homoerotic Historiography,” 2013–14. Niches cut into walls house these little sculptures, each one gently lit and sealed behind a pane of Plexiglas, emphasizing their “archeological” qualities and those of the gallery itself. (The walls and floor of the space are painted an otherworldly midnight blue, which further upends the traditional sterility of the white cube.) These small, shiny, joyful men, survivors of colonialist exploitation and wreckage, perform acts of carnal desire and phallus worship, from raunchy gangbangs and genital frottage to delirious bouts of masturbation—an erotic jouissance that lustily bring back the dead.