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Sarah Cain’s cluttered, colorful show, BOW DOWN, relies on Beyoncé as a vehicle for its feminism. The exhibition’s title is lifted from ***Flawless, her anthem which includes a clip from scholar Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk, We Should All Be Feminists. It’s clear to see why Beyoncé cites Adichie in her exploration of feminism. It is not as clear, though, why Cain chose Beyoncé.
A Victorian-style dressing table, vanity (flawless) (2015)—also a Beyoncé reference—is painted half white, half with spray paint. Cain’s interest in architectural forms, as seen in her furniture pieces, evokes the body, sure. But the piece’s mirror seems like a pseudo-spiritual—and very L.A.—attempt to draw parallels between the work and Beyoncé’s aggressive body-positivity. (For further proof, see selfies on Instagram under #sarahcain).
Her committed gestures could be seen as a retroactive retort to the legacy of (male-dominated) painting, but are more successful at pushing the limits of what is acceptable in art. What’s most striking is her penchant for vaguely talismanic objects. Safety pins, prisms, yarn, zippers, dead flowers, and seashells pattern her compositions. Working within and against geometric abstraction as a predominantly male arena, Cain poses her decorative touches as a feminist act in an attempt to subvert the history of sexism in art. Instead, the work can appear outmoded—and seems only to reinforce the gender binaries she wants to break.
BOW DOWN runs from May 29, 2015 —July 11, 2015 at Honor Fraser (2622 S. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034)