Critics’ Picks

Elena Dorfman, Rebecca 1, 2002, C-print mounted on aluminum, 33 x 33".

Elena Dorfman, Rebecca 1, 2002, C-print mounted on aluminum, 33 x 33".

San Francisco

Elena Dorfman

Modernism Inc.
724 Ellis Street
April 11–May 10, 2019

“Still Lovers and Transmutations” brings together two series by Elena Dorfman made more than a decade apart. “Still Lovers,” 1999–2004, documents the lives of realistic sex dolls and their human companions through scenes of intimacy and domesticity, producing wholly un-ironic, if not uncanny, records of love between men and women and their synthetic partners. “Transmutations,” 2016–18, consists of large-format photographs of mountains, which Dorfman has gilded with precious metals, as well as large cotton-and-wool Jacquard tapestries of similar images, through which the artist has woven metallic threads. In the latter objects, Valbona 1, 2016, and Valbona 2, 2018, Dorfman applies a soft physicality to the razor-sharp lines of the landscape images.

The material, conceptual, and chronological gulfs between “Still Lovers” and “Transmutations” make the series easy to separate, but Dorfman dares us to consider their ties. The scale and grandeur of a work like Transmutation 2  (Gold Dome), 2017, allow viewers to fall into its palladium-gilded ravines, lured like Hansel and Gretel through the sublime landscape. The psychological appeal of the human-inanimate relationship in Rebecca 1, 2002, is only the lead intrigue into the doll’s strange aura, which peeks through her deteriorating silicon body. Dorfman’s attention to materiality binds these works, and in both series we recognize human hands beautifully deforming what nature is and can be.