Critics’ Picks

Rachel Libeskind, Desire to Collect, 2019, collage on Japanese paper with fabric hardener and acrylic airbrush pigment, 33 x 24".

New York

Rachel Libeskind and Carmen Winant

Signs and Symbols
102 Forsyth Street
June 2–July 28, 2019

The announcement for Rachel Libeskind and Carmen Winant’s show tells us that the artists “practice feminism and motherhood,” as if these were optional items on a menu of exercise regimens. Yet both of them do attempt to grapple with the historic packaging and narrativization of women’s bodies and psyches.

Winant’s memorable installation at the Museum of Modern Art last year, My Birth, 2018, required the viewer to pass through a long hallway plastered with pictures of newborns, pregnancies, and women in labor. Here, her collages focus on found material about “embodied treatments”—such as dance or scream therapy, marketed to wealthy, white, middle-aged women—which are chaotically assembled but neatly framed. Jostling for attention are cutout images and handwriting in graphite, ink, charcoal, and crayon. The aesthetic calls to mind the torn pages of a searching teenager’s diary (Target Practice [all works 2019] includes the headings “COMMUNICATION” and “FEELING”) or sketchbook notes from an aspiring art student (“Remember: no one likes to be seen or looked at in unflattering ways!” scolds Hologram for living). Often combining reclined nude subjects and snippets of reassuring instructions, the matter for her compositions could have come from guides to shooting portraits or sex manuals for beginners.

The images in Libeskind’s collages were taken from an unnamed vintage board game whose pieces included men’s and women’s faces sliced into separate features. Desire to Collect, with its comparative columns of lip, nose, and eye shapes, introduces the dark tinge of a eugenics study. The other works are rather hallucinatory, full of psychedelic airbrushing and asymmetrical compositions. More playful than Winant’s pieces, they also lend an undeniable air of paranoia to the show. Together, the artists attempt to reassemble so many fragmented bodies, to relieve some of their pain—but this work is never complete.