Critics’ Picks

Sara Rabin, Face Swap II, 2017, oil on canvas, 12 x 12".

Sara Rabin, Face Swap II, 2017, oil on canvas, 12 x 12".

New York

Sara Rabin

27 Orchard Street
July 30–September 10, 2017

The drawings and paintings in Sara Rabin’s current solo exhibition illustrate the body as something curious, cute, stupid, or alien. The artist’s images are quite funny and very weird. The woman in Greetings, 2017—made with pencil and pastel on brown craft paper—gazes back at us, her ass facing the viewer while she’s on all fours with a pair of googly eyes drawn into the dark cloud of her bush. There’s a clown getting a blow job in That Girl; She a Real Clown Pleaser, 2014, and two more pop up as cappuccino art in the dopily titled I Had a Dream There Were Clowns in My Coffee, Clowns in My Coffee, 2015, a spoof on a line from Carly Simon’s 1972 radio classic, “You’re So Vain.”

In a number of drawings—such as Elevator Mirror, 2015, Shower Head, 2016, and Lamp, 2017—we see a topless woman snapping pictures of her distorted self in reflective surfaces. It’s fascinating to see Rabin take this familiar habit of self-obsession and -objectification into the terrain of utter self-estrangement.

Though her drawings call to mind the eroticism and humor of Tomi Ungerer, Rabin’s portrait paintings are influenced by German Expressionism. Otto Dix is specifically referenced in the show’s press release, but the artist’s deformed beings with nauseatingly large heads could also be the mutant babies of Yoshitomo Nara and Gustav Klimt, too. Face Swap I–IV, all 2017, are paintings named after the phone app that produces spongy distortions and waking nightmares. Too-big teeth, a droopy eye, and a cleft lip are skillfully rendered in oil on canvas. Matter-of-fact and of-the-moment, the paintings show contemporary narcissism to be a vertiginous—and certainly visceral—hall of mirrors.