New York

Sophia Narrett, Wishes (detail), 2019, embroidery thread, fabric, 73 × 39". From “Do You Love Me?”

Sophia Narrett, Wishes (detail), 2019, embroidery thread, fabric, 73 × 39". From “Do You Love Me?”

“Do You Love Me?”

P.P.O.W

Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Kyle Dunn, Martine Gutierrez, Gerald Lovell, Reba Maybury, and Sophia Narrett were the six artists featured in “Do You Love Me?,” a group show that took on a number of subjects, such as intimacy, sexual politics, and the body as a site of wonder and horror—ideas that, thankfully, moved beyond the exhibition’s cheeky title.

Gutierrez explored the transmutability of gender and reality as it pertains to self-presentation. Two groups of seven small-scale, black-and-white photographs, Girl Friends (Rosella & Palama), 2014, and Girl Friends (Anita & Marie), 2014, portrayed the artist and a doppelgänger mannequin, similarly attired, in various settings. We saw the artist reaching out for a fake horse in Girl Friends (Anita & Marie 5) as Gutierrez’s “twin” turns away from us in the background under a dusky, lunar sky. With Girl Friends (Rosella & Palama 4) the pair, in black evening gowns, are framed by heavy curtains on one side and a grand staircase on the other in a gilded, palatial room. As a reflective device, the dummy provides a clever, even humorous foil. But its effect was diminished by the works’ formulaic repetition. (This was also true of the artist’s constant presence, as she struck those all-too-familiar modeling poses while sunbathing, for instance, or hitchhiking. The work often struggled to surpass the clichés of its inspiration.) An exception was Girl Friends (Anita & Marie 1), wherein both characters, in diaphanous white dresses, gaze in awe through an abundant woodland scene of Pre-Raphaelite charm and light. The image recalled the aesthetic of the early-twentieth-century “Cottingley Fairies” photographs, which elaborately intertwined fiction and fantasy. A fellow traveler in the realms of the fanciful was Narrett, whose incandescent Rococo embroideries avoided the egotism that hampered some of Guiterrez’s images. The artist’s Wishes, 2019, is an intricately rendered blaze of gorily seductive florals and creepily surrealist tableaux, featuring rowboat orgies; lurid medical sex role-play; and manic bands of leaping, hypnotic rabbits, among other sinister sights. The six-foot-high cavalcade here was presided over by the artist, who depicts herself as a smiling mystic in the work, telepathically directing the gleefully macabre circus from a tree-house window.

The photographs of friends and relatives in domestic settings captured by Brown—a far cry from the reveries of Gutierrez and Narrett—made us feel as though we were looking through a pinhole into his life. Information regarding who or where his subjects are, or what their relationships might be, is left to interpretation. Clear narratives are further obscured via precise croppings of both objects and people, the formal tactic subtly articulating the peripheral status endured by black people in the United States. Brown’s subjects’ theatrical gestures, which convey exhaustion, victimization, and violence, evoke the pathos of a Greek tragedy. The most notable piece here was Is it that I desire to see Jesus bend, to witness them at odds or in question? Jesus loves me, but I believe that Jesus is in process too, 2018, which features a young man lying in bed, propped up on his elbows and wearing baggy shorts and a tank top while facing away from the viewer. The image is quietly intriguing, but generally the selection of Brown’s work for this show didn’t do his vision justice.

Maybury is an artist, essayist, and dominatrix who vivisected our capitalist patriarchy in eight acrylic self-portraits, collectively titled The Consequences of His and Hers, 2018–19. Maybury, clad in policewoman outfits, is depicted as “Mistress Rebecca,” while other works feature hybrid renderings of her submissives in fetish attire. All of the paintings were made by her clientele—various of whom are nicknamed Horsey, Billionaire Heir, and the Dutch Wetter—in exquisite-corpse style and under her supervision. In her writings, the artist describes these artmaking sessions, her financial hardships, the aggravating behavior of men, and her life as a sex worker. These paintings manifest Maybury’s anthropological interest in dismantling male power structures by working within them—insidious aspects of our culture that require fearless investigation, not our love.