Critics’ Picks

Susan Cianciolo, In the world, not of it, 2018–19, wood and mixed media, 42 1/8 x 30 x 11 3/4''.

Susan Cianciolo, In the world, not of it, 2018–19, wood and mixed media, 42 1/8 x 30 x 11 3/4''.


Susan Cianciolo

South London Gallery
65 - 67 Peckham Road / 82 Peckham Road
June 21–September 1, 2019

“In motherhood,” writes Rachel Cusk in her 2001 memoir, A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother, “a woman exchanges her public significance for a range of private meanings, and like sounds outside a certain range they can be very difficult for other people to identify.” Created over the past year with her eleven-year-old daughter Lilac, “Games”—the most recent body of work included in Susan Cianciolo’s first institutional solo show in London—gives these “private meanings” of the domestic the validation of the gallery setting.

Cianciolo first became known for the experimental clothing collections she produced under the label RUN between 1995 and 2001, represented here by mannequins recovered from Ralph Pucci’s workshop in the 1990s and dressed in reconfigured archival pieces. While the investigation of the matrilineal bond in “Games” might feel particularly bold in its vulnerability, this show situates the series solidly within the lineage of Cianciolo’s very earliest work, with its collaborative approach and interest in the rituals of process over the final product.

The subject of “Games” is both universal—we have all been children—and profoundly intimate. In the vibrant tabletop assemblage In the world, not of it, 2018–19, an address, handwritten in green pen, has been stuck over a scrap of paper bearing the word answer, like a parody of a clue (we are playing games after all). A Google search for “17 West Center Street Beacon 12508” pulls up a yellow wood-frame house near the Hudson River. Without more context, its significance remains opaque. The same holds for the black-and-white photograph of three women in Garden game, 2019, lopsidedly taped against the wall of one of several cardboard boxes filled with aluminum trays of soil, a Dunkin’ Donuts cup holding a fan of crayons, brightly colored plastic toys, and other childhood miscellanea. It might feel familiar, but it’s only an outline, like viewing someone else’s memory.