Los Angeles

Isabelle Albuquerque, Orgy for 10 People in One Body: 6, 2020, resin, mica-laced Lexus auto-body paint, 18 × 18 × 65". From the series “Orgy for 10 People in One Body,” 2019–.

Isabelle Albuquerque, Orgy for 10 People in One Body: 6, 2020, resin, mica-laced Lexus auto-body paint, 18 × 18 × 65". From the series “Orgy for 10 People in One Body,” 2019–.

Isabelle Albuquerque

The press release for Isabelle Albuquerque’s solo exhibition “Sextet” at Nicodim Gallery opens with a quote from David Wojnarowicz: “Inside my head I wished for years that I could separate into ten different people to give each person I loved a part of myself forever and also have some left over to drift, . . . and now I’m in danger of losing the only one of me that is around.” The artist’s six spellbinding sculptures here addressed the myriad conundrums of owning a body, among them the desire for one to become many in order to produce an endlessly proliferating circle of compassion and the struggle to accept the beauty and horror of our faulty flesh suits that sometimes have trouble accommodating a great spirit. Albuquerque’s show featured works from her sculpture series “Orgy for Ten People in One Body,” 2019–. The pieces on view, a crowd of women, were all modeled after the measurements of one singular human: the artist herself.

With each novel expression of self, we risk sacrificing the original. Or, as Ocean Vuong put it in his 2016 poem “Threshold”: “I didn’t know the cost / of entering a song—was to lose / your way back. // So I entered. / So I lost.” Such is the nature of experimentation and change, which are clearly ongoing rituals for Albuquerque. Each sculpture felt as though it were a station in a generative life cycle, up through and including her own death (or deaths). Quasi-mystical and assertively carnal, her works, despite the slick chill of their mostly modern materials and methods of production (e.g., mica-laced Lexus auto-body paint, 3D scanning), are unabashedly pagan.

Headless and naked, standing up or lying down, on all fours or spread-eagled, all of these works were incarnations of an orgiastic multitude. One cast-bronze body copulated with a brassy saxophone in an evocation of William Butler Yeats’s 1923 poem “Leda and the Swan.” Richly oiled and whorled with dark grain, a diminutive and exquisitely carved figure in walnut—the only sculpture that wasn’t life-size—stood with her hands coyly attempting to cover her nudity. Elsewhere, a cast-resin woman lay back upon a sheetless mattress. Her footless legs are propped open and up in the air as she balances a single lit candle in her vagina. The white wax dripped and pooled over the edge of the bare bed and onto the concrete floor. Meanwhile, a heavy, black-rubber woman—crouched on her hands and knees atop a low plinth—lent a faint yet distinctly wet slap of s/m to the party. Close to her was a languid, chimeric lady wearing a wedding ring: She was wrapped in the softest fur and bore ebony hooves instead of feet—a mythical cross between Bambi and an eighteenth-century odalisque. And finally we saw a figure whose hands were gathered in prayer, laid to rest on the lid of a sarcophagus that gleamed with custom-car gloss. The frieze along the sides of the coffin is a storyboard cataloguing each of the sculptures in Albuquerque’s series thus far.

Decapitated, nude, and suggestively posed, these figures thematize objectification, but the acephalic body also suggests carnal immediacy and unmediated access to physical and spiritual processes of corporeality. The work is off-putting, but fabulously so—the sculptures are proudly perverse, gloriously kinky. Albuquerque’s avatars, though humorous, are nonetheless tinged by a real violence that seems to be perpetually lurking in the shadows. After careers as a dancer, musician, and designer, the artist—in her solo debut as a visual artist—offers up a compelling meditation on the nature of being, the possibilities of pleasure, and the difficult process of trying to understand the throngs, lost and found, who inhabit every single one of us.