Critics’ Picks

Nicole Wermers, Reclining Female #2, 2022, plaster, pigment, styrofoam, fabric, metal, wood, housekeeping trolley, mixed media, 71 1/3 x 63 x 33 1/2". Photo: Andy Keate.

Nicole Wermers, Reclining Female #2, 2022, plaster, pigment, styrofoam, fabric, metal, wood, housekeeping trolley, mixed media, 71 1/3 x 63 x 33 1/2". Photo: Andy Keate.

London

Nicole Wermers

Herald St
2 Herald Street
November 24, 2022–February 11, 2023

Upon viewing Sandy Orgel’s Linen Closet, one of the room-sized installations exhibited at the legendary “Womanhouse” in Los Angeles in 1972, a visitor remarked, “This is exactly where women have always been—in between the sheets and on the shelf.” If Orgel turned to the upright figure of the display mannequin to explore the domestic, societal expectations of women, Nicole Wermers riffs on the art-historical trope of the passive (and similarly mute) odalisque in her exhibition “P4aM2ARF!,” its title an encrypted acronym for “Proposal for a Monument to a Reclining Female!” Her large sculptures Reclining Figure #1, #2, and #3, all works 2022, each rest on wooden boards balanced atop commercial cleaning trolleys complete with a miscellany of binbags, folded linens, bundled laundry, and household products. The industrial manufacturer Numatic’s pink “Hetty” hoover, the feminized companion to their iconic, anthropomorphic “Henry,” even makes an appearance.

Crafted from humble Styrofoam and thickly coated in plaster and pigment, the sculptures espouse an unfinished, impastoed rawness. The recumbent nude on her pedestal is staged in hierarchical relation to the working body; by replacing the traditional plinth with the housekeeping cart, Wermers evokes Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969! (note the kindred exclamation point) and the obfuscation of labor in the public sphere, of which the limbolike white cube is the example par excellence.

In Wermers’s series “Attachments,” collaged photographs of bicycle frames, locks, and steel racks create the vertiginous illusion of a vascular system of interdependent, interlocking parts. Elsewhere, in Proposal for a Monument to a Reclining Female!, a miniature clay version of the oversized Reclining Figure is propped on a stack of trivial purchases, among them Charbonnel et Walker chocolates, a tin of wasabi peas, artisanal toothpaste, and Marlboro cigarettes: an effigy of commodity fetishism, in which objects assume agency and the self is reduced to the mere sum of their products.