Night Gallery: Isabel Yellin and Awol Erizku
By Genie Davis
Isabel Yellin’s It’ll Come is a mysterious, sensual, and evocative sculptural exhibition created using fabric as her sculptural form. These are human bodies, tactile, alive yet headless, somehow still filled with soul though wordless and blind.
The artist writes of creating forms of intimacy, allure, lust, and skin; of the human body twisting and flowing, of an orgiastic experience. Certainly all of these elements are present in her work, which is dream-like, surreal, and yet grounded in a kind of inchoate reality that is both personal and universal. These large human forms – which could also be alien beings who have twisted themselves into human shapes – seem to be made of some kind of often-luminescent flesh. Their aliveness is in part based on the materials Yellin uses, latex, leatherette, nylon fabric, all supple and strange. The London-based artist uses her medium to express what her work connotes, attraction and distance, flesh and fantasy. Yellin has said that fabric as a material is intrinsically viewed as feminine in nature; here she takes that femininity and renders it powerful and sinuous, creating visceral structures that appear malleable and clay-like.
Yellin’s Sleep With My Hand Between My Knees formed from leatherette, acrylic, and stuffing, is as much alien as human, the single arm stretched Gumby-like to the knees. The figure is headless, the legs cut off at those knees. There is something terrifying about the piece – as if in sleeping, the figure was mutilated; but it is also elegant, mysterious, and beautiful.
Using urethane, leatherette, acrylic, stuffing, sand, and wire, Stasia is even more otherworldly, the shiny, supple, skin-like surface is pulled over wildly elongated, bent backwards legs – a gymnast from another planet.
With nylon, corset, boning, and acrylic, the very delicate, ballet-like figure of Estelle has no head but multiple, entwined legs.
Yellin says she views her work as reflective, with a personal connection to the materials and forms; taken both as an intimate rumination on the human form and as a provocative statement on body image and what it means to be human/alien/other/you, the exhibition pulses with power.
Paired with Yellin, Awol Erizku’s Menace II Society is a more straightforward approach to the human condition, capturing this country’s history of institutionalized racism from the 60s to the present. Using wooden pallets as a base, Erizku’s vividly colored screened images originated in a rejected 1968 proposal for a Black Panther’s coloring book created by James Teemer. The mixed media assemblages here include paper targets, corrugated metal, plastic, and plywood; raw mediums that fly in the face of traditional canvas-driven art. Large, bright, and vital, the gallery teems and seethes with both anger and artistic expression, exploring police brutality, racial politics, and the pain of injustice. Erizku’s photographic roots show in his visceral approach to polarizing images; they grab and shake the viewer without letting go.
Night Gallery is located at 2276 E 16th St, Los Angeles, California 90021