Critics’ Picks

View of “Gelatin: New York Golem,” 2017.

View of “Gelatin: New York Golem,” 2017.

New York


Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street Ground Floor
June 23–August 4, 2017

In Paul Wegener’s 1925 silent film Der Golem, the titular construction comes to life when a magic word, written on paper, is inserted into the clay creature’s chest. Gelatin’s exhibition “New York Golem” takes consecrated insertion to an absurdly literal end, as ceramic totems shaped by the artists’ genitals are supported by an array of improvised pedestals.

The sculptures are each titled New York Golem (all works 2017), and some have only the barest hint of figuration. Display apparatuses throughout the show seem to be frantic amalgams of studio supplies and readily available materials. The equation of sexual and creative energy, along with the claim that artistry endows form with life, is a foundational myth of modernism—Auguste Rodin’s The Hand of God, ca. 1896, with its rough marble abutting a miniature sleeping woman in the clutch of a veiny oversize hand, might be a paradigmatic case for both. Gelatin’s objects perform a hyperbolic version of these values.

One might ask if amplifying the latent ridiculousness of masculine vitalism constitutes a critique. But the physical comedy of some works is undeniable. Take, for instance, one sculpture on a curving wooden tripod—perhaps made of old bannisters—supporting a glazed ceramic. The sex act seems to have entailed grasping a cube of clay while thrusting. The handholds, now fired, become ersatz ears. It is easy to address the lamb-headed octopus as a creature, but staring into the pube-print-circled hole that uncomfortably constitutes its face is a gross-out gag worthy of Mike Meyers, or Rabelais.