New York

Nicola Tyson

Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

Nicola Tyson excels at figure studies of the human body—not as it is but as it could be. Like a balloon artist, Tyson twists a basic form into novel arrangements, building an inner pressure that erupts in unexpected evaginations and bulbous erections. Little holes denote misplaced anuses, vestigial urethras, or other orifices of obscure purpose. In Self-Portrait: Early ’70s (all works 1995), a figure—isolated against a flatly painted background that nevertheless suggests the corner of a room—stands with her feet pointed at the viewer and her head at the corner, truncated arms groping blindly like an insect’s feelers. From the midriff of the body protrudes a lump of flesh that could be a pregnant stomach or, taking an ambiguous brown crack into account, a grossly swollen ass. If you could be sure these works were self-portraits then naturally you’d refer to the figure with feminine pronouns,

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