Judy Fox

In her first European solo show, Judy Fox presented six naturalistic, lifesize sculptures of naked children. In no way hyperreal, these sculptures are of mythological or religious characters that range from the Virgin Mary to Mohammed to Jaguar Knight. The figures are drawn from the typologies of various religions or borrow directly from well-known works in the history of art. Saint Theresa, 1993, bent over backwards, eyes half-closed and mouth open, is clearly drawn from Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, 1645–52. The evocation of the ecstatic moment, which in the Bernini is at once mystical and sexual, seems utterly at odds with the child’s body, as children are usually associated with the ideal, the innocent, and a “natural,” unspoiled eroticism. However, the view that Fox’s sculptures address the problem of child abuse is utterly at odds with the spiritualized representation and balance of Fox’s compositions; the sexual is only one aspect of what is projected onto the body of the child.

Familiar figures from the Christian tradition occupied one room, while African and South American cultures were evoked by Malanggan, 1992, and Hockender Knabe (Jaguar knight, 1990), displayed in a separate room. When we are confronted with the subtle changes in the representation of non-Western typologies, the nature of the relationship between Fox’s work and the cultural icon to which it refers becomes difficult to determine. For example, Malanggan, the black boy standing with crossed legs, his arms close to his body, refers to some African cultic figure with which few Westerners will be familiar. Because she treats all cultures in the same schematic way, a number of clichéd images slip by. With Mohammed, 1988—represented by a two- or three-year-old boy squatting in prayer on the floor—the cliché becomes rather offensive. Positioning “Mohammed” in a submissive posture next to the desk of the gallery attendant does nothing but intensify the Orientalist quality of these pieces. In this case, what Fox considers “multicultural,” actually reads as cultural imperialism.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by Franz Peter Hugdahl.