Critics’ Picks

Lauren Gault, C I T H R A, 2020, Lycra, wood, steel, Jesmonite, bolus gun, rice bone, glass, dimensions variable.

Lauren Gault, C I T H R A, 2020, Lycra, wood, steel, Jesmonite, bolus gun, rice bone, glass, dimensions variable.


Lauren Gault

155 Vauxhall Street
January 23–March 22, 2020

In 1907, the Irish-born inventor and scientist Martha Craig published an esoteric science-fiction novel titled The Men of Mars under the pseudonym Mithra, a name that invoked the ancient Roman deity and cult of Mithras. Over a century later, her book has become a point of departure for a distant relative, the artist Lauren Gault, who here integrates Craig’s transcendent alias into her sculptures, which envelop the gallery in an obscure caul of mythology and industrial menace.

The speculative blankness of an awkward, tentlike centerpiece of stretched white Lycra (all works C I T H R A, 2020) brings to mind what Ursula Le Guin, referring to the universe, once called the “womb of things to be and tomb of things that were.” A cast of a hand rests on a sterile precipice, while a steel bolus gun protrudes elsewhere from the taut fabric. One corner is being gnawed by a chalky Jesmonite sculpture of a dog on its hind legs, teeth bared—a reproduction of the tauroctony scenes intrinsic to Mithraic temples, which pictured the sacrifice of a bull and the feeding of its blood to a canine. Nearby, a pile of colostrum milk powder as well as mineral supplements for livestock—oral capsules partially dissolved in stomach acid—suggest the manipulative ethics of modern agriculture.

Eschewing didacticism, the installation is self-referential and sparely evocative, unfolding through a series of allusions and clues. A cast hoof print from an aurochs—a supersized beast, extinct since the early 1600s, and the ancestor of today’s cattle—feels in subtle conversation with a horizontal floor piece whose miniature cows appear to sink amid icicles of blown glass and silica shards. A supply-chain motif culminates in a trio of vacuum-formed acrylic water tanks installed in the gallery’s ceiling. Despite these vessels’ repetitive, minimalist form, their rippling water creates an unpredictable shimmer on the walls, a mesmerizing effect unsettled by field recordings of guttural animal noises and chemical experiments that occasionally rumble through the ventilation system.