New York

Paula Longendyke

112 Greene Street Gallery

Paula Longendyke’s show disturbed me. It was weird and ugly, as if somebody had been given a couple of hours to put together some kind of sculpture using a staple gun and the light construction materials left over from a loft subdivision. One artist said it looked like the culmination of the 112 Gallery’s formal funk esthetic, jerry-built but nonreferential. Still, I liked Longendyke’s white corner, a tall construction she did near the pipes in the back of the gallery. Loosely laid and fractured tiles lay within a white painted square on the floor. Venetian blinds, hunks of plasterboard, and pieces of wood just barely did the job of defining walls on the wall. It looked, in fact, like part of the bathroom in a tract house wrecked by tornado. This construction also sparked a disturbing reminiscence in me of Judy Chicago’s bathroom project at the Los Angeles house she and her students remodeled into a quasi-Surrealist chamber of horrors called Woman-house. Chicago blocked off her bathroom with a gauzy scrim, painted all the fixtures white, and filled a trash can near the toilet with cotton and paper wads painted red to resemble oversized sanitary napkins. Quite a head-slapper, that work. The closest Chicago ever came to an agit-prop female iconography. “We bleed, and you can’t come in.” The inverse of Wesselmann’s bathroom tableaux.

I mentioned this to Longendyke and she, taken aback, replied that she’d also done a room in Womanhouse. I remembered it as a kind of re-creation of a Hollywood groupie’s cheaply furnished apartment. There were lots of cosmetics and fan magazines strewn around. These were the remnants, she said, of a performance she did there with Colette, another sculptor now living and showing in New York. Longendyke said she’d remembered Chicago’s bathroom while making her own white corner. Strange how our remembrances coincided. Longendyke’s environment, an open area and a destructed thing, seems nearly desperate compared to the cool surety behind that bathroom. The all-thumbs construction in the other three works looks like an attempt to rattle out of a structural commitment. Loose boards blocking your view of junctures seem coy. But the white corner meshes with the Chicago piece like an aftermath, as a register of Longendyke’s experience as a student and a woman.

Alan Moore