New York

Jörg Immendorff, Gestatten. Mein Name ist Geschichte! (Permit Me, My Name Is History!), 2005, oil on canvas, 59 × 51 1⁄4". From “Vile Bodies.”

Jörg Immendorff, Gestatten. Mein Name ist Geschichte! (Permit Me, My Name Is History!), 2005, oil on canvas, 59 × 51 1⁄4". From “Vile Bodies.”

“Vile Bodies”

Michael Werner | New York

The bodies in this group exhibition may have been vile—they certainly weren’t classically ideal—but they were absolutely distinctive. “Vile Bodies,” which extended to the gallery’s London branch, was full of various stylistic persuasions. Take, for instance, the linear clarity of Lucio Fontana’s drawing Nudo (Nude), ca. 1956–59; the bawdiness of Joseph Beuys’s sketch Josephine, 1954; or the expressionistic zeal of Don Van Vliet’s gouache on paper Untitled (Woman), 1986. Yet its major through line, as the title of the exhibition made clear, was a roiling contempt for the human form. Women, in particular, were treated with a morbid curiosity (all of the works were by male artists, many of whom seemed to have a jaundiced view of the opposite sex). Thus Beuys thrusts his subject’s vulva in our faces, spectacularly announcing his castration anxiety while defending himself against it

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