Critics’ Picks

Wanda Czelkowska, Head, 1972, plaster, wood, pencil, 28 x 18 x 18”.


“Land of Lads, Land of Lashes”

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac | London
37 Dover Street Ely House
June 25–August 11

At the margin of the margins, the three largely ignored female avant-garde artists of this exhibition carved out their own space of bold experimentalism in the 1960s and 1970s—in some cases, literally. Growing up in Poland in the twilight years of Stalin’s regime, Wanda Czelkowska began her career creating monumental Socialist sculptures. Though she later rejected this totalitarian aesthetic, its repressed energy teems beneath the surface of her raw Brutalist vision. Her “Heads” series, 1964–72, evokes a genderless Easter Island, contorted and amorphous. Some heads are cracked or bisected, revealing the artifice beneath these primitive-looking artifacts. The colorful, exploded charcoal painting Elegy, 1990, is a foil for her earthy, rough-hewn palette. Czelkowska’s works appear animated by a tension between containment and rupture—most overtly in Self Portrait, ca. 1970, a photograph in which the artist is bound by tights and gagged by her own hands.

Lydia Okumura’s minimalist work moves away from the concrete into a more perspective-scrambling dimension. The São Paulo–born artist of Japanese heritage maneuvers you along a high-wire act of geometric abstraction. Labyrinth (1984/2018) looks like a rainbow pulled through a vortex: brightly colored cylindrical rolls of mesh that dance in the air. In Front of Light, 1977, sees string and glass jaggedly bursting from an envelope of pitch blackness: an optical puzzle surfacing from the psyche.

Finally, New Yorker Rosemarie Castoro’s works are physical, funny, and playfully absurd. In the eponymous Land of Lashes, 1976, fiberglass eyelashes seem to scuttle like tarantulas. Perhaps revealing the artist’s background in dance, Castoro’s impastoed graphite and gesso marks can feel almost choreographed at times. Works like the blown-up brushstroke of St., 1972, move with dexterous fluidity on the wall, while her origami-like paper sculptures reveal her uncanny way of transforming surfaces, bending the material realm to her will.