Critics’ Picks

Joyce Kozloff, 3 Elephants, 2017, acrylic, collage, pastel, oil pastel, and found object on canvas, 30 x 42 x 4".

Joyce Kozloff, 3 Elephants, 2017, acrylic, collage, pastel, oil pastel, and found object on canvas, 30 x 42 x 4".

New York

Joyce Kozloff

DC Moore Gallery
535 West 22nd Street 2nd Floor
October 5–November 4, 2017

We’ve heard it more times than we can count: It’s a man’s world. And within it, conquest is key to prosperity, requiring a neurotic addiction to territorial expansion. That’s where maps come in. Tools of imperialism and warfare strategy, maps have been utilized as political weapons across the centuries (their most dangerous purpose is to depict land as battlegrounds). But in Joyce Kozloff’s case—as a founding member of the Heresies collective and a major figure in the Pattern and Decoration movement—maps, for the past twenty-five years, have functioned as instruments dedicated to pushing a feminist discourse.

In this exhibition, Kozloff reclaims the world by rendering it with a childlike jubilance. The map paintings here incorporate acrylic, charcoal, and oil pastels, among other media, with a variety of collage elements: most significantly, the artist’s recovered grade school drawings. The intertwining of these aspects creates gleeful tableaux of vibrant yellows, teals, and oranges, full of youthful naïveté and adult sophistication. But Kozloff unveils a thread of exoticization that tells us much about the midcentury US imagination and its public education system. In pieces such as 3 Elephants, 2017, where a pale figure with a monkey on his shoulder rides one of the titular creatures throughout the wilds of Africa, or Dream of the American West, 2017, with desert cowboys astride horses, we’re faced with symbols that go from joyous wonder to blatant reductivism, reckoning with a complicated history.