Critics’ Picks

Ghada Amer, Lovers in Blue, 2017, glazed ceramic, 24 x 33 x 12".

Ghada Amer, Lovers in Blue, 2017, glazed ceramic, 24 x 33 x 12".

New York

Ghada Amer

Cheim & Read | Upper East Side
23 E 67th St
April 5–May 12, 2018

A handful of new ceramics hang high on the walls of Ghada Amer’s latest exhibition. One might describe them fairly and accurately as large, misshapen bowls. Amer is famous, of course, for her paintings that layer the very masculine gestural language of Abstract Expressionism (all splashes and dashes and drips of paint) over delicate embroideries and tangles of thread, which yield to even fainter stencils of women in autoerotic poses, taken straight from softcore porn. But ever since the 1990s, Amer has been making three-dimensional objects, too. To make a sculpture of a wedding dress, she once went to sewing school for a year. A decade ago, she started making perforated, egg-shaped sculptures in bronze and steel. She recently did a residency at the Kohler Art Center in Wisconsin (and yes, it’s affiliated with the manufacturer of bath and kitchen fixtures) to learn how to work with brass.

For the past few years, Amer has been messing around semiseriously with clay. There are eleven ceramics on view here, compared to only seven paintings. Some of the sculptures are placed on pedestals and take the shape of broken-down cardboard boxes. Walking around them, viewers catch a glimpse of Amer’s by-now-familiar women, pleasuring themselves on a material support that speaks in contradictory terms of liberation and confinement. The best of the sculptures, however, are the ones on the wall, such as The White Plate and Lovers in Blue, both 2017. Look closely at the former and you’ll find Amer’s fingerprints on the tiny strips of clay that approximate a lone woman’s tousled hair. Take a step back from the latter and you’ll see two women kissing like there’s no tomorrow. It looks and feels, quite perfectly, like the fragment of some passing moment in a great but impossible passion.