New York

Connor Marie, Vita, 2022, oil on canvas, 36 × 36".

Connor Marie, Vita, 2022, oil on canvas, 36 × 36".

Connor Marie

Each of Connor Marie’s slick quadrangular canvases here showcased a young female face, closely cropped, the surfaces of the paintings pressurized by the subjects’ glazed-over eyes, their expressions at turns kittenish, vengeful, or Vecna-afflicted. Some of her femmes exhibited facial features reminiscent of prefab anime action girls. Others evinced a prepubescent softness, à la Nabokov’s Lolita. Together, the brood stood guard over an aquamarine fiberglass slab at the gallery’s center: the sarcophagic sculpture Cavity (all works 2022), inside of which rested a hollowed-out cast of a doll-like figure. Was this the very mold from which Marie created her flock? One got the sense that the plinth leaked some of its sickly hue into the flesh of the artist’s beings, a color somewhere between pulverized poltergeist and zombified e-girl. Yet these dolls didn’t rise from the dead because, well, they were never . . . ALIVE!!! (cue sinister laughter).

Marie first birthed her uncanny gals on, a machine-learning site that allows for endless image modifications of faces, landscapes, cats, etc. The platform’s front page boasts the following message: ARTBREEDER WORKS LIKE MAGIC. CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT AN IMAGE JUST BY MODIFYING ITS “GENES.” At first, the smorgasbord of alteration capacities invokes the somewhat benign (if not overused) postproduction culture of “remix.” But spend only a few minutes exploring Artbreeder’s genetic adjustment tools and you’ll see the cringier side of this dubious app. In addition to levels altering “color,” “clothes,” or “hair and eyes,” the program also has sliders for “gender” and “race,” the latter permitting users to amp up or tone down how “white,” “Black,” “Asian,” “Middle Eastern,” “Latino-Hispanic,” or “Indian” a face is. Toggle these a bit, along with “age” and “emotion,” and the result is more than a little icky, as if one is seeing the alien offspring of Elon Musk and Grimes being reengineered by folks on 4chan.

Indeed, Marie drew the life source for her subjects from this nefarious alteration process. Her Frankensteinian offspring are the products of too many Skinnygirl margaritas, endless spa treatments, confectionary whitening creams, saccharine kawaii infusions, and Barbie doll body fantasies. Take Vita, near the gallery’s windows: Her angled avian eyes and amphibian skin tone—coupled with plump maroon lips (perhaps blood soaked)—register her as the scion of some vampiric clan. Then we saw Violet on the wall opposite her: She’s all smiles, periwinkle skin, and home-bobbed hair; her eyes are pure milky cataract. Nearby, executed on a much larger scale, was Charlotte, whose stringy mane, cranial features, and quietly assertive stare called to mind subjects from Sally Mann’s early photographs. And, lest we forget, the show included Marla, another outsize character whose coiffure sports the same bishōjo-inspired swoosh as her siblings’, but whose unnervingly smooth head has been wiped clean of any features.

What’s the recipe for the perfect girl? Eyeless, noseless, perhaps pumiced to death, Marla hung on a wall opposite Lubov’s back room, which contained Habitat I, a single-channel video, and Choose me, Hear Me, Stuff Me, Stitch Me, Fluff Me, Dress Me, Name Me, Take Me Home, a multimedia concoction comprising eight illuminated glass globes filled with sundry liquids, including red wine, bile, Irish sea moss, and Dior DreamSkin Youth-Perfecting mask. These visceral pieces provided no answers but managed to create a potent atmosphere of visual and olfactory sensations. In fact, the smells helped to heighten the eerie, quiet choreography of the video, in which a woman moves through suffocatingly thick viscous ooze as though it were second nature. This particular work conjures up a slew of references, from Ana Mendieta’s short films and Georges Bataille’s concept of “l’informe” to scenes taken out of Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). It also displays a sense of bodily autonomy, a craving to refashion one’s own self from some chthonic “source of it all,” which, in close proximity to the US Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, felt extremely urgent.