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“Sylvia Bataille”

JOAN
4300 West Jefferson Boulevard, 1
October 23, 2015–December 20, 2015

View of “Sylvia Bataille,” 2015.

Desire and sex, fame and legacy: two of the most mundane yet endlessly sought after couplings. Rarely are the details of personal relationships outed—rather, these veiled realities appear in gossip columns, biographies, or obituaries as art history sieves out who gets remembered or forgotten. This group exhibition, “Sylvia Bataille,” is named after the French film actress whose own success has slipped from memory even though she was married to, and mothered children with, the influential philosophers Georges Bataille and Jacques Lacan. Artists were invited to respond to her imbalanced legacy and answered back with contemporary visions of equity.

A collaborative work by two artist couples—Christopher K. Ho and John Magee, Cynthia Talmadge and Kevin Zucker—titled Nearer to Man (all works cited, 2015) is one example. Its gray wooden frame hanging by thick ropes from the rafters is a former film prop–cum–readymade, a version of the one used in filming Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country (1936), which Sylvia starred in. Set in the middle of the show, the installation harkens like an inviting sex swing. Nearby, Harry Dodge’s masturbatory sculpture The Virtual Is Not Immaterial (Plastic Sunset/External Anus), features a beastly banana-yellow resin-covered phallus on one side and an illustration of a peace/victory gesture on the other. Nearby, Eileen Quinlan and Cheyney Thompson share a quieter exchange with a line of framed works: Three Sisters and Interior Views (Studio) alternates between Quinlan’s hauntingly pale Polaroid portraits and Thompson’s faint and exacting metal point drawings.

Allusions to Georges Bataille’s The Story of the Eye (1928) and Freudian psychoanalysis via Lacanian theory are embedded throughout the works on view, becoming the lens through which Sylvia Bataille’s life is seen. Her ghost hovers over the show in a nostalgic state of mourning.

Arielle Bier