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Upon arrival at Smart Objects, I was politely instructed by a handwritten note to text the word “Doctor” to a Los Angeles cell-phone number. After a few moments, a perfectly nice person opened the door to Dr. Guttman’s Office, Ann Hirsch’s solo exhibition.
Inside, Hirsch’s older works—videos featuring genitalia, sex, and emblems of dark humor in the artist’s preferred flavor, hard to watch for a bashful viewer—contextualize “newer” ones: recreations from sketches she made in the office of her childhood psychologist. Aside from the video’s content, the installation proved equally uncomfortable, given the awkwardness in stooping to view videos mounted far below eye-level. The longer I watched, the more maneuvered I felt.
Since her childhood, it seems, Hirsch has engaged in exhaustive attempts to understand identity and gender. Modestly sized drawings in quaint frames were installed atop berry jam red carpet that blankets—or suffocates—the walls. These more recent facial portraits of men, stare abjectly with frightening gazes colorfully resigning behind curly marks. Of the male portraits, Adric (2015), has an especially glazed gaze, vibrant eye make-up, and posh part that queers gender roles with a honed nuance; touches that are drastically lacking in the images from Ann’s youth. One of Hirsch’s early self-portraits has her in a sleeveless purple dress and high-heels, arms framing her head, hair coiled in a posh up-do. Most troublesome here is her chest: punctured and gaping, a rectangular hole laid plain in the center of her ribcage (or, perhaps, where a heart might be). Fixated on the subject of her femininity—and what it means to be a woman in a post-internet world—Hirsch charts a deranged mentality from its commencement by exposing the familiar drawings of an unabashed child: enticing yet destabilizing renderings of her process.
Ann Hirsch, Dr. Guttman’s Office, ran from October 23- November 27, 2015 at Smart Objects (1828 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026).