New York

Lilla LoCurto & William Outcault


Having established separate artistic careers, Lilla LoCurto and William Outcault first came together as collaborators to create Self-Portrait, 1992, for the controversial exhibition “Corporeal Politics” held at the List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts that same year. (The NEA revoked funding for the show because of its explicit subject matter, so that both the exhibition and its handsome catalogue had to be produced with alternate resources including a donation from Aerosmith.) Self-Portrait was comprised of a stack of video monitors, the top one featuring the viewer’s head and the other three an ever-changing selection of trunks, legs, and feet inside a giant breast-shaped cage, creating an interactive “exquisite corpse” that directly implicated the spectator in its examination of the body as a locus of identity.

Although Self-Portrait was not included in their most recent show, there were several related works, including the series “Morphodites” (all works 1994) and Self-portrait Stained Glass, photo-based works depicting male and female anatomy in various combinations. Most of the other pieces focused on one of the most overdetermined parts of the female body: the breast. In the series “Titillatiae” pictures of various Venuses (Willendorf, Milo, etc.) and real silicon implants were held up for scrutiny with the aid of surgical clips and magnifying glasses. Were the evil-looking ready-mades only the most recent ploy in the objectification of women? Or were the classic babes proof that breasts are sexy no matter what the size? Such humorous interpretations seemed unlikely given the works that complemented this series. In Ptotic, rubber casts of breasts, bagged like onions in nylon netting, dangled from industrial meat hooks. A piñata stuffed with a glowing television radiated images of perfectly endowed females through a mélange of pale rubber breasts that emphasized the carcinogenic properties of both media.

The work of LoCurto and Outcault sometimes resembles Rebecca Horn’s, though it lacks the poetry of her sculptures and installations. Their direct approach to body and gender politics is at its best when it stops short of the clinical. The “Morphodites” are relatively lifeless stand-ins for the novel Self-Portrait that spawned them, especially when compared to the centerpiece of the show Vrouwke Pis (Woman pees)—a working satire of Brussels’ famous fountain. Here the statue of an insipid pissing boy has been replaced by a video of a live, pissing girl, who is naked and smiling warmly. Mediating historic images of the body through the matrices of contemporary politics, mad technology, and a titillating brand of humor, LoCurto and Outcault arrive at their most enduring work.

Ingrid Schaffner