new-york

Mary Beth Edelson

A.I.R. Gallery

I may be imagining it, but it seems to me there’s something newly humorous about Mary Beth Edelson’s latest notes on myth and ritual. Things seem serious enough as one checks off the budget of stock m & r icons: woman as lamia (bronzes of woman-headed snakes and spirals), woman as goddess (ruins of Greco-Roman busts), fire and water as purifying elements, journeys through caves as rites of passage, and so forth. At the same time, though, Edelson presents these as both melodramatic and petrified (or perhaps melodramatic because petrified). The legendary instruments of triumphant climax—the lightning bolt, the winged victory—are deployed as a couple of dusty, overworked props; the grays of the paintings show them hard and deliberately inert, victims of a Gorgon gaze. The tired old myths are chipped detritus.

Going back into the hills, regression in the service of the collective ego has been

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