On ViewCandice Madey
March 17 – April 16, 2022
Sculptors Siobhan Liddell and Linda Matalon give life to the shared spaces between human beings, and the spaces they leave behind. In this exhibition of drawings, sculptures and ephemera going back to Matalon’s 1991 sculpture Hang II and arriving in the present with Liddell’s 2019 Nobody’s World, spaces are tagged with narratives of grieving, love, and ecstasy. Curator Ksenia Soboleva weaves these two artist’s practices in and out of the all-encompassing background of the AIDS epidemic, bringing an overlooked but vital lesbian presence into a well-trodden art history. The exhibition doesn’t end with AIDS: it follows the artist’s work (especially Liddell’s) well into the twenty-first century, and offers a lens through which to follow their practices.
Linda Matalon’s vessel in wire mesh and wax, Hang II (1991), begins the exhibition: the wax is malleable and easily contaminated with grit and dirt (in this case tar), referencing the fragility and bruising of the human body. Its presentation, hanging limply from a wire, is an explicit evocation of abjectness, but also contains a kinetic freedom to move. Her drawings investigate the physics of dangling, hanging and precariousness through pulsating lines of graphite, smudges of oil stick, and shiny amorphous patches of glue, culminating first in the preparatory drawing Untitled (1992), a line of dangling and squirming ghostly bulbous undulating tubes, and then in the seminal 1993 sculpture Goodbye to All My Drag Queens. Goodbye to All My Drag Queens is a line of ten long limb-like objects hanging on a wall, the left half of them black and the right half beige. These forms are more regular than those in the drawing, evoking stockings or hose, but similarly to the drawings, they read as both tortured tubes and legs, representing the simplest diagram of a living—or dying—creature.
Siobhan Liddell’s fragments of life begin, in this exhibition, with her 1998 series of bronze sculptures: “Spaces Between Two Bodies” (two works of the same title), “Between Two Bodies” (also two works of the same title), and the plaster Pause (1998). These works catalog the negative space around and between living human forms, and express both a joyous interaction, as we imagine bodies rolling around in pleasure and love, but also the relics of something that was once there but is now gone. A second train of thought is laid out in Liddell’s considerations of light—first in her Glass Rods (1994), a set of four solid glass cylinders of differing widths, lengths, and tints of blue installed on the floor, bringing to mind Walter De Maria’s The Broken Kilometer (1979) but on an individual and luminescent human scale. While the Bodies and Pause sculptures are about holding on to the space of intimacy, Glass Rods is about capturing light in a palpable object. Liddell further explored light while on an American Academy in Rome residency where she became obsessed with the oculus of the Pantheon, here represented by the four Handprint (2012) prints—a scan of a hand with a rough-cut oculus revealing a variety of meaningful images—an eye, the pantheon oculus, etc. Nobody’s World (2019) is a simple diorama—Liddell has punctured a round hole into a freestanding, accordion-folded photograph of a hand reaching out and cupping something—the oculus. The photo stands vertically on a wooden base, a momentary sculpture framing an ever-changing circular window.
I was lucky enough to moderate a discussion between Liddell, Matalon, and Soboleva for the Brooklyn Rail’s New Social Environment episode #530. The juxtaposition of various pieces by the artists was particularly striking to Matalon, especially the placement of her piece Pare (1997) next to Pause by Liddell. Pare is a set of two wire trapezoidal baskets, and Pause is a pair of wall-hung impressions/casts created from the negative space between two bodies; one form white, one form black. The two sets of space materialized are emblematic of each artist’s distinct but deeply connected methodologies of engaging with absence—Matalon’s porous and transitory, while Liddell’s seeks to freeze and hold the moment. The exhibition is rife with these moments, which, rather than provoke the eye into comparing the two artists, invite us to see from alternating viewpoints. It is deeply moving to have these two viewpoints revisited, intertwined, and contextualized in this exhibition.