David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to participate in the inaugural edition of Frieze Los Angeles with a solo presentation by Kathryn Andrews. Featuring a new series of wall-based works and two new sculptures, the project takes the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short (popularly known as the Black Dahlia) as a point of departure, probing the use and misuse of the female body within the culture of Hollywood image-making.
Andrews makes objects in which complex relationships between power and gender--particularly as they play out in the American imagination--are given tangible expression. She employs a wide variety of formal languages and symbolic systems, juxtaposing highly finished materials with seductive imagery and readymade artifacts associated with the entertainment industry. Her work physically implicates the viewer through the use of reflection, and sheds light on latent art historical narratives by connecting them to urgent contemporary issues. The objects on view at Frieze Los Angeles, for instance, pit art tropes against a deep-seated Hollywood pathology--a pervasive objectification of the feminine, currently being brought to light by the #MeToo movement.
Hollywood Dahlias, the new wall-based objects produced for Frieze Los Angeles, have evolved from Andrews's recent series of Black Bars works, which also problematize the perception of two-dimensional images through sculptural acts of concealment. Here, however, she introduces a multilayered interplay of mirrored and printed surfaces. In each work, an iconic black-and-white two-part image of a dahlia shot by the artist has been silkscreened onto the reverse side of a sheet of framing glass, which is then coated with two bounding rectangles of reflective silver ink. The resulting image is split by a thin strip of another image visible between and beneath it: a full-color shot of a female model's head, also from an archive of photographs taken by the artist, reminiscent of a headshot or beauty shot, and therefore exuding a mysterious combination of familiarity and anonymity. Incidentally, the women photographed are Los Angeles models and actresses.
As the viewer approaches, the images reveal their specific material qualities, including the characteristics of their ink and the printing processes by which they were applied to their respective substrates. At the same time, additional areas of the woman's image become visible underneath the densely patterned flower. Such formal fragmentation evokes the disturbing facts of the still-unsolved Black Dahlia murder--Short was found dismembered in a Los Angeles field--and the connections between desire, beauty, and objectification prevalent in entertainment and advertising. It also recalls the work of artists with Surrealist leanings like Hans Bellmer and Man Ray, who depicted female bodies as groupings of disparate parts. The Hollywood Dahlias complicate the status of feminine archetypes, rendering the floral, the corporeal, and the beautiful in hard materials with oddly ruptured compositions.
Two sculptures on view pose related questions about the construction of gender, but introduce specific references and sourced objects that bring with them their own histories. T-1000 incorporates a certified prop from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day: a hand partially transformed into an elongated metallic spike. The prop was used to create a primary scene of male/female tension in the film, during which T-1000, a technologically advanced robot from the future, attacks a character played by actress Linda Hamilton and pierces her upper body with the spike. Andrews creates a minimalist setting for this object, suspending it between two blocks of solid aluminum. The spike extends into one block, becoming enveloped by a meticulously machined metal orifice whose reflective sides create the illusion of infinitely receding space. As a result, the masculinely-coded pop culture relic with threatening overtones enters a new narrative situation where the "feminine" surface is not actually penetrated. The new configuration both counters the filmic narrative of the deadly phallic form as well as the masculine history of the 20th-century cube.
The other sculpture shares its title, Hollywood Dahlia, with the wall-based works, and is the latest in Andrews's ongoing and characteristic series of sculptures organized around reflective stainless steel cylinders. Here, however, the cylinder has been sliced into disc-like sections, each of which supports a film prop. With a German soldier's helmet and a pig's head mask at top, a nude female torso in the middle, and sneakers toward the bottom, the work is conspicuously figurative, and once again offers an allusion to the bizarre facts of the Black Dahlia case. Here the artist mimics the actions of the killer, arranging body components in an odd configuration, though Andrews samples the discarded "body" of Hollywood, its disused props, opening up an array of broader readings about the circulation of objects, images, and stories in a society that consumes and discards them quickly. Through an act of absurdist collage, Andrews creates a new figure that foregrounds the ever-present forces of feminine power.
In 2017, Kathryn Andrews (b. 1973, Mobile, Alabama) was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. She was also recently the subject of the traveling exhibition Kathryn Andrews: Run for President at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2016) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2015). Other solo exhibitions include Sunbathers I & II, High Line, New York (2016); Kathryn Andrews, TC: Temporary Contemporary, Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2014); and Special Meat Occasional Drink, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2013). Among her recent group exhibitions are Mad World, Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles (2018); Reconstitution, LAXART, Los Angeles (2017); Good Dreams, Bad Dreams: American Mythologies, Aïshti Foundation, Beirut (2016); NO MAN'S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015); The Los Angeles Project, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2014); and Made in L.A. 2012, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012). Andrews lives and works in Los Angeles.