Critics’ Picks

View of “Wormwood,” 2017.

View of “Wormwood,” 2017.



Ellis King
Donore Avenue White Swan, Unit 7
July 7–August 12, 2017

Amid the B-movie monstrosities of the Book of Revelation lurks the Wormwood star, destined to hit the earth and poison a third of its waters upon impact. This doomsday comet shares its name with Artemisia absinthium (absinthe wormwood), the bitter medicinal herb responsible for absinthe’s curious coupling of extreme clarity and hallucinogenic stupor.

Organized by Todd von Ammon, this group exhibition mingles decadence, delirium, and decay in a cocktail best sipped slowly. Associations with prophecies and poisons align in the forked tongues of Olivia Erlanger’s Slow Violence, 2016, a duo of carved-foam sculptures coated in resin and carbite grit, which impart the mottled gloss of river stones in clouded shades of cornflower blue and gray. Their imperfect twinning echoes in Oscar Tuazon and Elias Hansen’s Hadlock Boomlog, 2016, two slices of an ancient tree trunk, exquisitely riddled by shipworms. Across the room, Donald Moffett’s Lott 052817 (Titanium White), 2017, precision-cuts perfect circles through densely layered wood, its surface capped by a stiff pelt of white paint.

Having slipped under the skin, infestation quickly cedes to intoxication and disintegration. Kris Lemsalu’s dual tabletop ceramics—both titled Immaterial Material Love, 2017—offer abject coagulations, crawling with larvae, tentacles, tongues, and loose nipples, while Helmut Lang’s sculptures, Untitled, both 2015–17, sprout stems of shellacked resin, suggesting the smoked-flesh finish of rawhide chew toys. The unsavory aura is reinforced by David Seth Moltz’s fragrance Locust, 2017, a concoction with the bittersweet tang of crushed insect wings. While certainly intriguing, the overall effect is to leave one wary of drinking too deeply of these waters.