NANCY DAVIDSONby Rachel Youens
ROBERT MILLER GALLERY | SEPTEMBER 11 – OCTOBER 6, 2001
Nancy Davidson’s sculptures in her one-person show at Robert Miller Gallery in September may again seem to storm the citadel of art with a Guerilla Girl-like assault on the normative standards and values of the marketplace. Of course, nowadays such an assault looks more like careerism than any genuine subversion of cultural form and value. Brash and parodic, Davidson’s sculptural balloons, which she stacks, arranges, and clothes in lame and lace, display attitudes of casual effrontery and nonchalance. Their intention is to burst the inflated egos of both modernism’s heroes and America’s popular cultural icons. Her challenge may be to redefine post-modernism’s stance of disbelief in authenticity, and make its anti-art into art.
Under their wisecrack exterior, her sculptures seem to sublimate hauntings of the art world during the ’70s, when womens’s direct political interventions were channeled through the media to contribute to our heightened awareness of aesthetic disparities within the art world. Where that field has been somewhat leveled, and feminism’s role less certain, Davidson’s focus on buttocks and breast pose a reversed stance: the denial of the body, even as they may project sensuality, especially in their photographic representation. The balloons wait to be pierced and deflated, simply loosing their hot air. With their stretchable plastic skins of eviscerated interiors, they are objects that darkly point to cultural sterility. But as unmalleable and standardized shapes, their formal limitations are fairly severe. In “Buttress,” Davidson will be challenging both Donald Judd’s stacked boxes and Brancusi’s “Endless Column.” As parodies of modernism, they eschew a frontal attack on their subject, preferring a sort of conceptual slap-stick, coupled with a knowing wink and a nod.
Rachel Youens is a painter, writer, and teacher who lives in Brooklyn.