“Ladyparts”At 87Florida to July 26
I don’t love disrobing in front of other people even under the best of circumstances, so it was with some trepidation that I participated in Rachel Hrbek’s performance at “Ladyparts,” a group show on view at the 87Florida Artist Collective. For the opening-night performance, Hrbek asked viewers to become the viewed. One at a time, viewers could enter the bedroom where Hrbek was sitting, in her underwear, but only by stripping down to their skivvies first.
As vulnerable as I felt, exposed during a two-minute conversation with a stranger, this intimacy power-play left me feeling chafed afterward. Perhaps work in a show called “Ladyparts” was bound to weaponize sex. But Hrbek’s performance, and other works aiming for the confrontational, arrived at the transactional.
Curated by visiting San Francisco artist Alexandra “Rex” Delafkaran with Aether Art Projects’ Eames Armstrong, “Ladyparts” squeezes the work of 11 women and three men into the Bloomingdale apartment gallery. Do-it-yourself house shows aren’t museum exhibitions, granted, but this was just too tight a fit. The space worked to the advantage of Ziad Nagy, whose performance at the opening involved dancing around erratically, but it was nearly impossible to avoid the nuisance.
In the same living-room space, Sterling Poole placed three photographic depictions of a vulva high up on a wall, with a step-ladder providing the only way to view the works closely—at the cost of opening the viewer to scrutiny for wanting to look. Linda Hesh’s portraits conflate sex and sin by joining attractive, less-than-dressed models with apples inscribed with the word “Evil.” There isn’t much room for subtlety. Carly J. Bale’s performance had her in a bathtub, stapling her hair to a board before finally cutting much of it off.
Works that work include a suite of abstract paintings by Kyrae Cowan, representing washboards and installed with clothespins along a line, and a sculptural installation by Elle Brand featuring ceramic egg shells—both potent metaphors for women’s labor. The most topical piece was the one that suffered the most from its display: Rachelle Beaudoin’s “Upskirt Defense System,” a reflective panty-liner attached to a pair of women’s underwear. That’s a funny retort to the so-called predditors who post upskirt pics of unknowing women on Reddit and elsewhere, but the piece—the single artifact plus two photos of a woman wearing them—was so haphazardly displayed that it seemed like an afterthought. “Ladyparts” is a hazy collection of ideas about the body, all of which deserve a more careful exhibit.