Extremely absorbent and increasingly hollow
Cuchifritos Gallery & Project Space: presented with Abrons Art Center
December 14 - February 3, 2019
Curated by Alexis Wilkinson, AIRspace Curator in Residence

The artworks included in the exhibition Extremely absorbent and increasingly hollow complicate the notion of a discrete body as separate from the unruly matter of the physical world and impervious to the penetration of cultural signifiers from the social world. Working across sculpture, performance, and video, artists Xandra Ibarra, Alison Kuo, and Tiffany Jaeyeon Shin forego direct representation, instead employing materials that stand in for the mass of the body and the surface of the skin to consider processes of consumption and anxieties around contamination.

Both consumption and contamination occur in the body by way of ingestion and proximity––we continuously absorb elements of the world around us. These systems also extend to the social, marking bodies and populations with sometimes dangerous physical and social implications in the form of ideologies, perceptions, anxieties, and desires as examined in different ways by the artworks included.

In the exhibition, Shin cultivates the growth of bacteria on the porous surface of unfired porcelain vessels, drawing connections between skin, objecthood, and agency. Ibarra aligns with the qualities of endurance manifested in the figure of the cockroach and its process of ecdysis, when the insect sheds and regenerates its shell in an ongoing cycle not of transformation, but of sameness. Kuo engages notions of sacrifice, sensuality, and aspiration contained in the material properties and social history of gelatin in the United States, tracking its transformation from its early use in wartime rationing to its emergence as a colorful object of desire. Across the works, the artists implement living and moving processes: the visible growth of bacteria, the contours of a cockroach skin costume enlivened and rendered void by a vacuum, the vigorous contact between flesh and gelatin. The works privilege viscous, slippery, and transitional states over the solid and static. They implement materials often deemed disagreeable and impure over clean and controlled to examine how value is perceived and assigned. Through their materials, the artists evoke modes of hollowness, absorbency, void, and excess, registering the potentials and dangers of these interrelated – and sometimes conflicting – conditions.

Exhibition Catalogue

Bedford & Bowery