Critics’ Picks

Eye Body #4, 1963.

New York

Carolee Schneemann

535 West 22nd Street Third Floor
January 12–February 11

Carolee Schneemann has a thing for cats. She also has a thing for hard-hitting and provocative work across a wide variety of media. Her latest show, “Corporeal: Photographic Works 1963–2005,” is a small retrospective that coincides nicely with another resurgence of her work in “The Downtown Show: 1974–1984,” currently on view at the Grey Art Gallery. But don’t let the title mislead you—though photography is integral to each of the pieces showcased here, it is always photography fruitfully engaged with another medium, whether that be video, performance, painting, or collage. On one wall, eighteen delirious and troubling prints from her groundbreaking performance Eye Body, 1963, investigate the bewildering position of femininity in a mythical landscape of Abstract Expressionist flotsam and jetsam. Not one to shy away from the political arena, Caged Cats I and II (both 2005) and Snows, 1967, are didactic and a little troubling in their reification of stereotypes of vulnerable Others as victims, but they’re also unusually effective and messily beautiful. More recent work focuses on the tragedy of the World Trade Center; Terminal Velocity, 2001–2005, employs scanned images of nine people falling from the collapsing towers to produce identifications rent by a visceral sense of vertigo while Dark Pond, 2001–2005, muddies those very same images with watercolor and crayon. Despite her plain political leanings, in Schneemann’s vast corpus, positions are rarely transparent.