Critics’ Picks

View of “Leda Bourgogne: Dead Heat,” 2020.

View of “Leda Bourgogne: Dead Heat,” 2020.


Leda Bourgogne

Geisselstrasse 84 - 86
February 1–March 29, 2020

Following a series of breakout shows in recent years, Leda Bourgogne’s most recent outing, curated by Cathrin Mayer, reads like an early-career retrospective. Astute viewers are likely to pick up on Bourgogne voraciously citing the canon of women artists. One finds echoes of Susan Rothenberg’s fleeting figures dissolving into a flurry of gestures, Eva Hesse’s swaths of translucent matter mended into diaphanous forms, and even a dash of Hanne Darboven’s meditatively mechanistic mark-making. But despite all the erudition on display, Bourgogne doesn’t seem particularly interested in dwelling on her artistic ancestry. She’s probably more interested in fucking.

Here, vulvas, ovaries, and other sensuous V’s abound in the unmistakable light of desire’s flame. Tumescent veins throb in the monumental textile piece Varix, 2020, while a slit in the smoky surface of Spook, 2020, secretes clit-size seashells. The painstakingly rendered panties in the drawings Tush and Tezenis, both 2019, offer more explicit gratification. What sets this show apart, however, isn’t its voluptuousness, but the way it talks about one of the more unseemly aspects of erotic desire.

Titled “Dead Heat”—a technical racing term for a tie—the show frames sexuality in terms of competition. In the sound installation Punchdrunk, 2019, for example, a jump-rope metronome sets the tempo for Bourgogne’s blithe account of how a lost love increasingly devoted herself to having a fitter body, presumably as their relationship was falling apart. Meanwhile, the boxing gloves in the sculpture Prizefighter, 2019, hang like pathetically distended testicles. However pathological it may be, the pursuit of success figures as a temporary salve for our smaller, same-sexed wounds. As Princess Nokia puts it, “I make money to replace you.”