Critics’ Picks

Megan Marrin, The Rest Cure, 2020, oil on canvas on Styrofoam, 94 x 48".

Megan Marrin, The Rest Cure, 2020, oil on canvas on Styrofoam, 94 x 48".

New York

Megan Marrin

Queer Thoughts
373 Broadway #C9
September 24–November 21, 2020

Megan Marrin’s solo exhibition “Convalescence” features a quartet of life-size oil paintings: renderings of Edwardian-era shower stalls (“a relic of treatment, hygiene, and rejuvenation,” says the artist, based on her research into spas and sanatoriums of the early twentieth century) that, initially, register as threatening. The imposing stature and rib-cage architecture of each stall transform Marrin’s paintings from representations of discrete objects to portraits of bodies in absentia. Her eerie subjects could be compared to suits of armor or torture chambers: People are meant to fit here, and used to be here, but are now long gone.

Three of these steely contraptions—backgrounded by monochromatic fields of pale pink, maroon, and a rich mahogany—assume an almost Byzantine iconicity. Whatever austerity is initially perceived in these paintings is promptly mitigated by a series of compositional and curatorial decisions that bring Marrin’s images down to earth. For one, each piece is hung very low, almost touching the gallery floor. The accentuated verticality of Marrin’s structures heightens this effect: The entrance to each tableau is positioned just above our feet, enticing the viewer to step into her suite of showers. But, given the exhibition’s ambient sense of a spectral haunting, do we dare?

This tension between healing and horror, between the promised rejuvenation of Marrin’s showers and the sense of loss they nevertheless evoke, coalesces into a palpable distrust of the artist’s quasi-medical instruments. Consequently, Marrin’s exhibition feels enormously relevant, especially now, as the hasty development of a coronavirus vaccine causes widespread concern while the disease’s mortality rate continues to rise at an alarming pace.