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With such a timely, loaded word serving as its theme, Virago (i.e. a domineering, violent or bad-tempered woman), currently on view at HILDE, does not disappoint in its intensity. The exhibition unapologetically portrays its titular archetype, complicating a character who could easily be dismissed as a cliché.
Candice Breitz’s short film Soliloquy (Sharon) (1992-2000) uses cuts from the film Basic Instinct that exclusively feature Sharon Stone’s dialogue, providing a refreshing balance to the male-centric scripts of mainstream cinema. On a nearby wall hangs Shelley Holcomb’s Muy contenta (2012), a painting of a female baby in glorious, shameless repose. The infant’s unabashed relationship to her body attracts while the macabre colors repel, foreshadowing the conflicted feelings young girl’s often have towards their physiques and physical development.
Anna Nordstrom’s textile piece Professional Feelings (2013) mimics the pixelated breakdown of an image, leaving the viewer to imagine the virago as office worker. In turn dismissed as too aggressive, too emotional, and too strong, she remains in a seemingly impossible position. Meanwhile, Zoe Crosher’s Mae Wested no. 4 (Crumpled) (2012), depicts the enigmatic Michelle DuBois, a real-life woman who has kept an expansive archive of photographs depicting herself in costume, her motivation unknown. Across the room and upstairs, Malin Gabriella Nordin’s and Anna Schachte’s sumptuous, abstract paintings lend contrast to the largely figurative exhibition, yet feel overhung in the space.
There is an imbalance present in the meaning of the word virago; a feeling that perhaps, like many women, real and imagined, she too has been unfairly simplified and misunderstood. Virago lends a variety of alternatives to that narrative through exhibiting works that complicate and individualize their subject matter, leaving the archetype right where it should be: unresolved and complex.
Virago runs from November 11–December 16, 2017 at HILDE (4727 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016).