Critics’ Picks

Katherine Bauer, Eye-O-Gram #1, 2013, milk, egg, urine, champagne, black-and-white photosensitive fiber paper, 42 x 100″.

New York

Katherine Bauer

Microscope Gallery
1329 Willoughby Avenue
December 15, 2013–January 13, 2014

Though their scale and amorphous, explosive forms resemble those of Abstract Expressionist paintings, Katherine Bauer’s “Eye-O-Grams,” (all works 2013)—like Man Ray’s Rayograms—are black-and-white photos produced by shadows and materials acting upon photosensitive paper. Part of a larger project called “Seduction of the Eye,” these works are photograms of an actionist–cum–expanded cinema performance that occurred in the same gallery. Opening with blackness and cacophony, the event featured four women simultaneously citing passages from the dissident Surrealist Georges Bataille’s 1928 erotic novel, Story of the Eye. Standing in for Bataille’s four perverse protagonists, they poured and smeared fluids mentioned in the text (egg, milk, urine, champagne) over their bodies and the paper. Each of the women were illuminated only by the flickering light of a hand-processed 16-mm film, which depicted their own eyes. Their performance is represented by the “Eye-O-Grams” as well as an audiocassette recording of the proceedings (Eye-O-Gram Track) and a mixed-media object combining the projected 16-mm film with a champagne saucer of urine (Wide Eyes/White Eggs).

By turning testicle-shaped eyeballs and eggs into sex toys, Bataille’s text suggests the erotic power of metaphor; Bauer’s project is less interested in metaphor than in correspondences of a more concrete nature—even if, or especially when, those correspondences have been rendered obscure. The third in a series on the rituals of female adolescence, “The Seduction of the Eye” investigates the traces things leave, from lightwaves to obsolete technologies to dirty novels read by impressionable young minds. At the same time, it warns us to not be seduced by the realm of the visible as a source of meaning: Hunting for evidence of abjection and degradation in the sensual, ink-wash tones of the “Eye-O-Grams” reminds that a search for connections that may or may not exist can be as perverse as it is pleasurable.