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JOAN’s Sylvia Bataille opens with Michel Auder’s Blind Sex quietly cloistered away at the entrance. Sex is a subtext even before being greeted by Harry Dodge’s man-sized sculpture fitted with a (seemingly ecstatic and) glistening yellow phallus. Suspended at the center of a smattering of works is a swing-like structure painted in shades of grey, as if extracted from a black-and-white still. It hangs at a tilt lying in wait for a rider (or two) to hop on for an indistinct ride of innocent or sexual play. A glance over towards the back wall reveals a petite photograph that serves as the reference: the exhibition’s namesake and a cameraman floating in a sea of white on the very apparatus that hangs in the gallery.
Sylvia Bataille feels like a series of apparitions; allusions to the body whisper from every corner and all seem to be in various stages of materializing. Wife and husband Roni Shneior and Barak Zemer’s I’ve Got You Under My Sink demonstrates the most literal arrival of these bodily incarnations—a snaking PVC pipe becoming a foot, a flesh-toned ceramic sculpture of labial ilk, and a stucco-textured bare chest—whereas the six-piece work of Eileen Quinlan and Cheyney Thompson is ephemerally fading away. Thompson’s delicate metal points come to us like faint ghosts, while Quinlan’s polaroids hold silhouetted subjects melting helplessly into white light.
The coupled pairs of artists (the curators, Rebecca Matalon and Adam Marnie, are a couple as well) provide both the exhibition’s featured works and its nuance. Sylvia Bataille cannot escape the sad irony of romantic partners creating works inspired by a woman whose lovers let her altogether fade into their shadows.
Sylvia Bataille runs from October 23–December 20, 2015 at JOAN (4300 West Jefferson Blvd. #1, Los Angeles, CA 90016).