Critics’ Picks

Darja Bajagić, I am a bobo doll (the clown blowup dolls with the sand in the bottom, you hit them and they fall sideways to the floor but bounce back up...problem is leaks occur,, 2015, acrylic, canvas, cardboard, cow's blood, ink, paper prints, plastic drop-cloth, stage blood, UV print, 35 x 36”.


Darja Bajagić

New Galerie
2 rue Borda Ground floor
October 22–December 19, 2015

Darja Bajagić tills gruesome terrain—the realm of the naked and the dead—but her use of violent and pornographic materials isn’t unilateral. The first painting encountered here features the masks of tragedy and comedy. It’s one of four dark collage-like paintings that incorporate snapshots of teenage girls—possibly victims—alongside nudes and images of slashed or bound female figures in dense layers of cutout canvas, acrylic paint, and a patchwork of plastic sheeting. It’s not clear what’s real and what’s staged in these works, which is further confused by the application of cow’s blood and stage blood to the canvases. A canny black humorist, Bajagić can provoke uncomfortable laughter at disturbing imagery, the origins of which could be innocent, or utterly not.

The artist has said she wants the works to instigate a “forceful reckoning” of their taboos—to push the poison out of seemingly banal images and to neutralize the loaded. In a suite of paintings from the “BTP Maniac Nanny” series (all works 2015), ruddy pigments splatter a blogger’s texts that recount scenes of violent deaths, which then become free associations in absurd catalogues of comestibles. That “palatable” content is more than just a matter of taste is indicated by the exhibition’s title, “The Offal Truth.” The proclivities are specific: The women depicted in these works appear to be young, white, and predominantly brunette—definitely a type, and possibly Bajagić’s avatars. A complex dynamic of identification and aggression is at play: Any look can indulge in both sides. The show opens with a video of short interviews of five women outside a Chicago goth club in their nightlife drag, responding to stock questions in ways mundane, amusing, and disarmingly sincere—just like their costumes. Bajagić has described her source materials as “blanks”: scare shots for maximum theater, yet capable of real damage.