Critics’ Picks

Odessa Straub, Fostering Freedom of Filth (thong༄ƃuoɥʇ) (detail), 2019, wood, acrylic paint, purse, leather, canvas, silk, brass chains, grow light, cast iron, nylon rope, glass vase, aquarium substrate, Plexiglas, plants, water, 90 x 40 x 30".

Odessa Straub, Fostering Freedom of Filth (thong༄ƃuoɥʇ) (detail), 2019, wood, acrylic paint, purse, leather, canvas, silk, brass chains, grow light, cast iron, nylon rope, glass vase, aquarium substrate, Plexiglas, plants, water, 90 x 40 x 30".

Hudson

Odessa Straub

SEPTEMBER
449 Warren Street #3
November 23, 2019–January 12, 2020

Is that a figure? An organism? An ecosystem? An organ? Odessa Straub’s latest show holds back answers, with gratifying results. The materials of the thirteen pieces on view—wall works and freestanding assemblages—include wooden armatures, swaths of fabric, and glass cloches containing filtered water and aquatic plants. Somehow, the show manages to merge an abstract painter’s interest in shapes, a botanist’s preoccupation with closed systems, and a teenager’s crush on sex itself. In Fostering Freedom of Filth (thongƃuoɥʇ) (all works cited, 2019), for example, an LED grow light starts to look a lot like a Minimalist canvas, while its pink glow illuminates a plant-filled fishbowl suspended in midair by what look like two pairs of taut, ripped animal-print panties.

While many of the semi-abstract canvases offer takes on classic figure-ground concerns, the show also nods to a long lineage of artists drawn to the abject and the feminine, especially where Straub conjures the silhouettes of goddesses and vessels. Lengths of silk and velvet, draped across wooden scaffolds or arranged next to a chaise longue, could be flat odalisques of sorts. Yet their ribbed surfaces—endless snaking ridges and valleys—are odd and sinewy, as if they were throw blankets made by a vampire seamstress following the striated patterns of muscle cells. Observing these and other details, one is tempted to imagine a shadowy, idiosyncratic muse who might have inspired Straub. Born a few decades earlier, this woman might have been a Carol Rama heroine. Now, she’s someone who checks social media expressly to scroll through pictures of plants, someone who is unafraid to talk about her gut biome—because she majored in bio or because she knows how to have fun.