Critics’ Picks

View of “Gogo Graham: drgn ldy 1.1,” 2017.

View of “Gogo Graham: drgn ldy 1.1,” 2017.

New York

Gogo Graham

67 Ludlow
67 Ludlow Street
July 14–August 5, 2017

Gogo Graham studied evolutionary biology before switching to fashion and starting her own line exclusively for trans women. Because most clothes aren’t made for trans women’s bodies, Graham’s one-off pieces are fitted to the person who wears them. The clothes are gifted to the models post-show. Two weeks prior to the opening of the artist’s exhibition here, Graham presented “Dragon Lady,” a one-night sculpture show at Romeo Gallery. Pushing against her experiences of being exoticized as a “dragon lady”—a white Western stereotype of Asian women as stubborn and manipulative—Graham presented drywall composite mannequins sheathed in thongs and furniture wrap, faces modeled after Kabuki and Noh masks. Styled with long beauty-shop hair, some mannequins were gnarled and bone colored; others were painted red, hunched like congealed foam.

In an interview with Out magazine, Graham said that the mannequins were “intended to convey my interaction with normative and horrific femme archetypes that exist within Japanese folklore.” Here, Graham fastened similar Noh masks to gas meters lining the gallery’s main space. The masks anthropomorphized the room into another kind of grotesque body, re-embodied (or perhaps possessed) by art viewers. And while the masks change expression based on the wearer’s head position, Graham’s stationary pieces—such as Chiyoko, 2017, named for the artist’s grandmother—required viewers to move their own heads instead, thereby rendering it impossible to view an entire work at once. Recalling Anicka Yi’s critiques of Western ocularcentrism, Graham’s opacity felt like a protective gesture as well, allowing the masks to shield themselves from the white gaze’s constitutive violence. Were viewers to remove a mask—hoping, perhaps, for a coherent interiority passively waiting to be mined—they would only find the meters, and basement walls lit like a postapocalyptic bunker.