The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

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FEB 2023 Issue

Body Memory

Nicki Cherry, <em>After the flame, after the pain</em>, 2022, bronze, stainless steel surgical instrument stand, beeswax, cotton gauze, epoxy clay, rubber tubing, IV bag, oil of milk, 43 x 32 x 48 inches. Courtesy GHOSTMACHINE.
Nicki Cherry, After the flame, after the pain, 2022, bronze, stainless steel surgical instrument stand, beeswax, cotton gauze, epoxy clay, rubber tubing, IV bag, oil of milk, 43 x 32 x 48 inches. Courtesy GHOSTMACHINE.
On View
Body Memory
February 3–February 25, 2023
New York

GHOSTMACHINE’s inaugural group exhibition, Body Memory, features Bianca Abdi-Boragi, Nicki Cherry, Kyoko Hamaguchi, Calli Roche, and Yvonne Shortt. Their works range in medium, and address the concept of the body from different perspectives. They include examinations of trauma, gestures, values, and physical experiences.

Founded by artists Magdalena Dukiewicz, Michael Eckblad, Zac Hacmon, and Jamie Martinez, GHOSTMACHINE reflects their initiative to build a community. As this exhibition centers on the human body, its memories, and resilience, the gallery demonstrates the force of being integral by operating with a common purpose: to offer a free platform for experimentation and creative freedom to a diverse range of people.

The gallery proves versatile in showcasing sculpture, painting, and mixed media. Each corner displays an artwork that speaks to the viewer about past bodily experiences and memorial reminiscences that influence society’s behavior. Nicki Cherry’s After the flame, after the pain (2022) is the backbone of this exhibition. Her sculpture is the result of a cast of a half-melted candle in the shape of the artist’s own injured spine named Coping Mechanism (vessel for spilt milk) (2021). Melted wax covers certain points of the stand as a remembrance of the candles burned in the previous work that originated this sculpture. Made of bronze, the structure of a spine lays on a surgical instrument stand; its curvature and the sharp texture of what resembles the vertebrae provide a visceral aesthetic alluding to the transformation of the spine from scoliosis. Although the silver surgical instrument stand refers to a clinical procedure, the IV bag indicates a sense of transitoriness, and the nakedness of the bone emphasizes the chronic physical pain that remains in one’s emotional state.

When turning around, we find Breastplate of Righteousness (2022) by Calli Roche. The black silk breastplate confronts the viewer, appearing suspended from the ceiling. The rusty steel boning suggests the deterioration of the materials as a representation of the body suffering pain over time. Perhaps it is possible to wear this object as armor, as it references the sixteenth-century transatlantic slave trade and today’s bulletproof vests.

Kyoko Hamaguchi, <em>Sight Condenser (Lake Winnipesaukee from Gunstock Mountain)</em>, 2022, contact lenses, contact lens case, saline solution, 2.25 x 0.75 inch diameter. Courtesy GHOSTMACHINE.
Kyoko Hamaguchi, Sight Condenser (Lake Winnipesaukee from Gunstock Mountain), 2022, contact lenses, contact lens case, saline solution, 2.25 x 0.75 inch diameter. Courtesy GHOSTMACHINE.

On the opposite wall, Bianca Abdi-Boragi’s painting Give Montreuil series (2023) encourages us to reflect on the migrant experience. A pair of hands appear wearing golden gloves with nature motifs softly holding a purple fabric with similar patterns. The hand gestures and the decorated textile evokes the artist’s memory of migrants visiting flea markets, revealing the intrinsic culture one holds inside the body and transcending the spoken language.

Sneaking up from the wall Sight Condenser (Lake Winnipesaukee from Gunstock Mountain) (2022) by Kyoko Hamaguchi demands our attention. Inside a tubular contact lens case, we discover a miniature landscape painted on each contact lens. Detailed textures and bright colors are the main elements of two floating compositions that we might struggle to distinguish, alluding to Kyoko’s difficulty in seeing without contact lenses. This work showcases the artist’s appreciation while wearing contact lenses as part of an ongoing series. What can be uncomfortable becomes an unusual way of portraying a visual experience.

Installation view of <em>Body Memory</em> at Ghostmachine, 2023. Courtesy GHOSTMACHINE.
Installation view of Body Memory at Ghostmachine, 2023. Courtesy GHOSTMACHINE.

Placed in one of the corners, a totemic sculpture attracted my attention due to its apparent playful shape combined with a hard labor construction feeling. In Ego + Ego Holder (2022), Yvonne Shortt makes a statement about one’s consciousness against fixed patterns and behaviors in which most artists feel trapped. Built of three concrete blocks, this work resembles solidity, holding on top of it a headdress whose physiognomy is composed of three clay figurines, one instead of a nose and one on each ear and white rope that configures the eyes and mouth. From the sides of the concrete body, labor gloves—that the artist has worn when performing studio labor—come out from the concrete structure. While walking towards the sculpture, we discover more elements that make it more complex. Two clay figurines appear in the bottom block as if placed in a niche, quietly waiting for the viewer to be revealed.

This group exhibition displays the multiple forms in which each artist approaches “body memory.” Each work illuminates resilience as an inner force that transcends the physical body. GHOSTMACHINE is a laboratory for creative experimentation that prioritizes artists’ voices.


Emireth Herrera Valdés

Emireth Herrera Valdés is a curator and writer based in New York City. She holds an MA in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. Her curatorial practice reflects her commitment to socially engaged projects.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2023

All Issues