I first saw Portia Munson’s transformative Pink Room at the New Museum’s legendary: Bad Girls Show” way back in 1994. English aficionados might remember the recreation of the maximalist pink installation from Frieze London 2016. Long before eco-feminism became a concept, Munson was collecting and assembling all manner of pink plastic ephemera…
Barbie doll accessories, shoes, toys, beauty accessories, and clothing. For decades, the artist’s multidisciplinary practice has been investigating consumerism, gender, and sexuality.
Along with the monumental site-specific incarnation of Pink Room, a new sculpture, ‘Nude II,” made of breast mugs, is on full frontal display.
Munson, who also works magnificently in sculpture and photography, displays gorgeous oil paintings and graphic drawings. Once again, dolls are portrayed with disturbing eroticism, mid-century porcelain princesses, and a sensually rumpled pair of gloves.
The entire top floor, dedicated to Portia Munson, is an excellent introduction to her prescient and provocative vision. The Museum of Sex has a permanent collection of historical erotic objects, photographs, ephemera and a cute store. But with the addition of Portia Munson, it is now one of the more exciting art destinations.
Portia Munson “Pink Bedroom” at the Museum of Sex until 26 July (Top Photo)
Myrlande Constant “Drapo” at Fort Gansevoort until March 11
First seen internationally at last year’s Venice Biennale in “The Milk of Dreams.” Haitian artist Myrlande Constant’s textile flags have brought the tradition of drapo, textile vodou flags into a glorious new incarnation of narrative textile art. Typically created by men, Constant’s large pieces embody equal infusions of colour, craft and joyous composition. All the drapos in the exhibition were completed in 2022 and celebrate spirituality and nature.
The labour-intensive tapestries are worked on by Myrlande’s family and friends, each sequin, tassel and bead hand sewn, as are the nature-inspired borders. Special stitching adds a painterly depth to the exuberant images, from a black Madonna and child to images of traditional vodou spirits. In one breathtakingly large piece,” Reincarnation Des Mortes”, benign skeletons cavort with multihued humans, and death is portrayed without tragedy.
Esteban Jefferson “25 May 2020” 303 Gallery until 25 February
These current and ephemeral images of public sculptures and public housing address politics and power. The New York native, whose work I initially encountered at Swiss Beatz “Bronx No Commission”, titles this current show with the date of George Floyd’s murder by police, which ignited the huge 2020 Black Lives Matter protest.
Spectral oil and graphite images depict the George Washington statue at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge or flags chosen by residents flying around Manhattan housing projects. Delicate line and subtle colourations are an intriguing contrast to the potent subject matter. Renderings of an equestrian, George Washington, in “11 November 2020”, portrays a horse with head bowed in supplication and enlivened with an avalanche of colour-saturated graffiti and a tangle of orange traffic cones atop the granite base.
A video and photographic series further Jefferson’s investigatory vision. The delicate beauty of the artist’s line, combined with erasure and unfinished imagery, questions these turbulent times while providing a vision of a better future.
Stefan Bondell “Salt on Our Skin” Dark Marks at Vito Schnabel Gallery
In probably Chelsea’s biggest post-pandemic opening, one thousand New Yorkers braved the February freeze to view Stefan Bondell’s “Dark Marks.” The seventeen paintings, gessoed canvas with black acrylic, propel the tradition of chiaroscuro and tenebrous to a cooly contemporary and historically harrowing vision.
New Yorker and lifelong Metropolitan Museum enthusiast, Bondell mines classical figures from the collection, ranging from classical Greek, Roman, Mayan and African statuary collaged next to images of political figures ranging from Giuliani to Trump to oligarchs. Interspersed among a swirling and hypnotic background…. think Aubrey Beardsley on acid…… are images of protests, the beleaguered White House, and blind justice teetering after the Insurrectionist onslaught.
Bondell’s unswerving mark-making never falters, from the tight brushstroke arabesques, straight to the intubated and masked New Yorkers in the midst of the pandemic. All these works were created during the past few years, a visual diary of these turbulent times and perhaps that contributes to the power and urgency of the monumental masterpieces.
Julia Chiang “Salt on Our Skin” Nicola Vassell Gallery until 25 February
In her first solo with Nicola Vassell, Julia Chiang’s biomorphic shapes shift beautifully against intricately painted patterns. Repetitive mark-making ranges from randomly dotted constellations to sensual ellipsis, all united by a boldly unexpected palette. Meticulous brushwork presents the viewer with an elegant moment of contemplative repose. Biomorphic shapes suggest falling leaves, cellular structures or even softened shapes mirroring the sensuality of flesh.
Also included are an appealing tribe of clay vessels, distinctly handcrafted, vaguely humanoid and wonderfully glazed. The Brooklyn-based artist fulfils her sure and subtle vision of “how we merge and push against one another, how new forms emerge and how we transform.”
New Yorker and lifelong Metropolitan Museum enthusiast, Bondell mines classical figures from the collection, ranging from classical Greek, Roman, Mayan and African statuary collaged next to images of political figures ranging from Giuliani to Trump to oligarchs. Interspersed among a swirling and hypnotic background are images of protests, the beleaguered White House, and blind justice teetering after the Insurrectionist onslaught. “2020 Vision” portrays Rosie the Riveter, an American flag at half-mast, a shadowed portrait of Frederick Douglas and more ominous images of Erik Prince, head of Blackwell and a masked President Xie of China.
Words: Ilka Scobie Photo: Portia Munson: The Pink Bedroom Photo Courtesy firstname.lastname@example.org All other photos © email@example.com and Artlyst