Critics’ Picks

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Untitled (Tree of Life 23), 1975, Magic Marker, ink, stickers, tape, Canadian postage stamps, envelope, 8 x 9".

New York

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

89 Eldridge Street
December 15, 2017–February 4, 2018

Perhaps at the very heart of your subconscious rests Snoopy. Or a scribbly crescent moon with a smile and winking eye. For Genesis Breyer P-Orridge—pandrogyne (a two-spirit being of malleable gender), soft pornographer, and so-called wrecker of civilization—it’s a cartoony little tree that looks like a four-leaf clover, sitting next to a simply rendered house: an image straight out of kindergarten, or the verdant environs of Teletubbyland. It’s the first thing the artist draws when zoning out and doodling—an elementary scene that is at the center of many striking and extraordinarily complicated projects. Don’t scoff: If an oyster’s to create its sublime pearl, it needs that ordinary grain of sand to get started.

Breyer P-Orridge recently unearthed thirty of these almost forgotten tableaux—laden with trippy patterns and fluffy clouds—for this exhibition. Made between 1974 and 1975 and executed in Magic Marker on flayed envelopes from mail-art works sent to h/er, they are soul-healing bits of jewel-toned psychedelia: Friedensreich Hundertwasser–meets–Yellow Submarine–style pictures that are genuinely perverse for their unembarrassed, family-friendly sweetness. Well, mostly sweet: Untitled (Tree of Life 28), 1975, is addressed to COUM Transmissions, the artist’s Dada-inspired think tank (the works were made near the end of the collective’s existence), with the quote “The greatest human catastrophe since Adam got a hard on.”

Taking in these pieces, I like to imagine a twenty-something Genesis with exquisitely shaped eyebrows, clad in studded leather, and wearing a dog collar, gently pushing h/er tangerine and lemon yellow markers around. Though “Tree of Life” reveals yet another rich facet of this multihyphenate maker, it does nothing to codify h/er strange and marvelous depths.