Critics’ Picks

Isaac Pool, Starter Pack, 2017, ceramic and wire base, plastic cucumber, rubber band, lightbulb, eyeliner, mascara, and Heatherette for MAC lipgloss, 16 x 6 x 4".

New York

Isaac Pool

Knockdown Center
52-19 Flushing Ave
January 13–February 25, 2018

“Good sister, bad sister / better burn that dress, sister / scar tissue blood blister / suck upon the dregs, sister.” The lyrics to this Hole song, from their unrelentingly rage-filled 1991 album Pretty on the Inside, are chanted like a spell by the actors in Isaac Pool’s object-play 40 Volume, 2016. The work stars four sculptures on pedestals (moved from the gallery into an adjacent black-box space for the performance’s two-night run). The characters, voiced live by actors, include a robust head of fennel—the diva—and three vases composed of tube socks suggestively encrusted with hair gel. The objects’ quipping exchanges, punctuated by a cappella renditions of songs by pop stars such as Mariah Carey and Billy Idol, reveal a complex but affectionate homage to femme fabulousness, shot through with class anxieties. (The title refers to a strength of hair bleach.)

Pool’s aesthetic renews the codes of camp in ways that are both tender and aspirational. During the opening, Knockdown Center’s bar served a strange, Dorito-dusted, smoky cocktail containing mezcal and an alcoholic lemongrass-flavored kombucha, among other ingredients. His humble yet pathos-ridden works include Dorito Flag, 2016, a neon assemblage of stretch velvet and fringe—backlit by a fluorescent bulb—and The Promise, 2017, a piece that combines the minimalist Swedish brand Acne’s millennial-pink shopping bag with a plastic cookie and real zit medication. Pool’s sources range from JOANN Fabrics to MAC cosmetics, found religious fliers to faux cucumbers, all of which manage to channel loss and queer desire. They flesh out his poetic sensibilities with cribbed and coded language, amplified by Courtney Love’s raw yearning in the chorus of “Good Sister”: “I try but I can’t and / I want to so bad and . . .”