london

Tracey Emin, Black Cat, 2001–2008, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 59 7/8".

Tracey Emin

Hayward Gallery

Tracey Emin, Black Cat, 2001–2008, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 59 7/8".

I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so much pussy in an art exhibition. Tracey Emin’s retrospective “Love Is What You Want,” curated by the Hayward’s Ralph Rugoff and Cliff Lauson, could make even Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party seem almost neuter by comparison. In what is by now a vast oeuvre, represented here by 160 works, the most recurrent image is of a woman with her legs spread, showing her vulva, often masturbating. Emin wants her art to originate from the essence of her being, and, like any good 1970s gender essentialist, she believes the essence of her being is in her sex. At the same time, though, she also senses that the expression of this essence can never be direct or immediate but must always take a detour—must always be mediated. Thus, for instance, her handwriting, a direct expression of the body, is not typically presented as such—it appears in a distanced

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the October 2011 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.