London

Linder, Magnitudes of Performance VII, 2012, photomontage, 11 × 17 1⁄8".

Linder, Magnitudes of Performance VII, 2012, photomontage, 11 × 17 1⁄8".

Linder

Modern Art Helmet Row

Having crossed from the Manchester, UK, punk scene in the 1970s to major public commissions, such as for London’s Art on the Underground series, Linder has turned into a widely embraced icon of British art and feminism, celebrated for photomontages that dissect glamour, gender, and sex with surgical precision. “Ever Standing Apart from Everything,” spanning more than seventy works from the past decade, gave viewers a close-up look at Linder’s continued efforts to subvert commercially manufactured desires via her transformation of fashion and porn spreads from her unorthodox archive, one page at a time.

Creating a pointed update of Richard Hamilton’s 1950s Pop works, Linder in several series joined images of designer furniture with those of figures in fashion and porn’s consumer fantasies, exposing the objectification of the female body and the fetishization of commodity objects. (She sources her images from ephemera dating to the mid-1940s and onward.) Infant’s Door, 2015, was particularly poignant, showing a woman elegantly dressed in ’70s style strolling on the beach with her feet in the water, but with a sideways washer-dryer-dishwasher lineup—boasting three conveniently located orifices—taking the place of her torso. Less surprising in its visual grammar, but no less distressing, was a photomontage of contemporary hard-core porn, The Model 13, 2015, in which an ensemble of three stylish vases pointed phallus-like at the face of an openmouthed woman with fake cum dripping down her chin. Montages of more skillfully lit black-and-white gay porn from the ’70s, such as Magnitudes of Performance VII, 2012, critiqued the commodification of the male body with stereotypically masculine items, such as electronics competing in bed with a copulating male couple. The photomontages—characterized by a seamlessness achieved through careful formal alignments and a meticulous matching of contemporaneous images—revealed the ways in which media industries have manufactured polarizing oppositions between male and female, the home and the outdoors, and the public and the private, while simultaneously conveying how little the media’s representations have really changed over time.

Perhaps craving a diversion from decades of this precision work, Linder reanimated what the obscure British Surrealist Ithell Colquhoun called the “mantic stain,” a technique for mark-making without conscious control derived from occultist traditions. In the “Superautomatism” series, 2014–, the artist pressed pigment and poured enamel paints onto photographs from an ’80s “health magazine” showing nude girls frolicking in the sun. Without any censoring purpose or narrative function, Linder’s mysterious, shimmering streams of color had a hallucinatory effect. Free-flowing lines also appeared in subsequent photomontages of hard-core porn covers, such as The Goddess Who Is Not Subject to Three Activities of Wake, Sleep and Dream, 2019, where the artist cut out images of roses—maximally commercialized symbols of romance—with a free hand, rather than by microscopically tracing their contours.

While the show’s title suggested an intellectual distance from the uncritical desires Linder has been cultivating with her scalpel throughout her career, the title also could be understood in relation to her recent use of a less consciously controlled approach of the mantic stain. The stains lack the conceptual bite of the cuts but disturb the utterly paranoid “purity” of the media image in a different way—not by revealing anything specific about the picture but by interrupting it to create conditions for another, different experience. While media industries such as porn have gone almost entirely digital, Linder’s use of techniques such as cutting and staining shows how little she cares to keep up with mainstream trends and technologies. Intimate in spirit as well as subject matter, her work plugs away at abiding cultural problems with the sensuality of enamel, paper, and glue.