Critics’ Picks

Tetsumi Kudo, For Nostalgic Purposes, for Your Living-Room, Souvenir “La Mue”, 1965–66, cages, plastic, polyester, paint, 78 3/4 x 39 2/3 x 39 2/3".

New York

“Counter Forms”

Andrea Rosen Gallery
525 West 24th Street
October 12–November 16

Curated by Elena Filipovic, “Counter Forms” brings together works by Tetsumi Kudo, Alina Szapocznikow, Paul Thek, and Hannah Wilke from the 1960s to the 1980s that present bodily traces as decorative and domestic, casting the human body as a souvenir. The result is a sparse dreamscape of packaged but ravaged human parts that counter the rise of commodity culture as well as the constructed appeal of Pop art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art.

Two thick chunks of flesh are stacked inside a pristine glass box covered with neon stripes, emphasizing the dissonance between the clinical enclosure and the pulpy material’s corporeal presence, in Paul Thek’s Untitled, 1964, from his series “Technological Reliquaries.” In Alina Szapocznikow’s tongue-in-cheek Lampe-Sculpture, 1970, translucent resin casts of parted lips and breasts stand in for a lamp shade that uses the form of a penis as its base. This is soberly balanced by her Petite Tumeurs, 1969–70, a collection of palm-size objects covered in resin and gauze that make visible the malignant forms, abject objects with an eerie aesthetic appeal, that led to the artist’s death in 1973. Hannah Wilke’s shell-like terra-cotta sculptures suggest women’s body parts packaged within boxlike forms. Strung with four bird cages containing inert body parts and prosthetics—cast face masks, hands, noses, eyeglasses, dentures—Tetsumi Kudo’s For Nostalgic Purposes, for Your Living-Room, Souvenir “La Mue”, 1965–66, displays these as emblematic of the era’s impulse to decorate and domesticate.

Each of these works emphasizes the vulnerability of the body during a time in which the image of the figure was increasingly presented as invincible and idealized. What’s more, the artists in “Counter Forms”—all working in the wake of trauma, from the Holocaust to AIDs—point to the way themes around corporeality circulated from Japan to the United States to Poland and France in a common aesthetic vocabulary.