Critics’ Picks

Vaginal Davis, Untitled (Hag), 2012,
makeup, glycerin, tempera, watercolor pencil, food coloring, mascara on a Corn Flakes box
5 1/2 x 7”. From the series “Various Hags,” 2012.

New York

Vaginal Davis

253 East Houston Street Ground Floor
November 9–December 16

A warm rose light that softly illuminates a darkened realm: This, of course, characterizes the presence of Ms. Vaginal Crème Davis—artiste, raconteur, and grand dame of drag and gender rebellion. This also happens to describe the scene one encounters when entering Participant Inc. to view her solo exhibition titled “HAG—small, contemporary, haggard,” a recreation of the HAG Gallery Davis ran from her tiny Hollywood apartment throughout most of the 1980s.

The HAG simulacrum sits jewel-like near the end of Participant’s main floor, and is veiled in an artificial twilight haze by the assistance of one glowing pink lightbulb and many tinted gallery windows. Inside HAG hangs “Various Hags” (all works 2012), a series of homespun glamour girl paintings of flip-haired blondes, brunettes, and redheads, made from discount cosmetics on an array of irregularly shaped paper surfaces. Opposite them are Dirty Mariah and Timberlake—expressionistically fucked-up and larger than life-size effigies of the barely above B-grade pop stars, molded from white (or, as Davis states on the inventory list, “Whyte”) bread. They’re all idiot grins and Paverpoled crust: the emancipated Mimi with her petrified, tumorous titties, and overhung Justin with his colossally corroded supercock.

This iteration of the HAG has also been designed as an Ames room: an optical illusion space with a steeply inclined floor and trapezoidal structure, where people can transmogrify from dwarf to giant with only a handful of footsteps from one corner of the room to another, all of which can be observed from a peephole cut into the front wall. It’s true: This HAG’s a fun-house tableau full of dizzying, pervy revelations—just like Davis herself.