Molly Blumberg’s “Homebodies” and Christine Wuenschel’s “Body Contact,” both up at Ignition Projects till the end of the month, are studies of discomfiting intimacy and the frictions of attachment. Blumberg and Wuenschel center the body as their staging grounds and explore how material allows for the traditional nude to be transgressed, penetrated and turned inside-out. Ambivalence and desire mark these explorations of porousness and penetration; there is a shared need to connect, to touch skin to skin with viscera exposed and to witness the consequences of repulsion and attraction. The timing of the two shows is serendipitous as both exhibitions were not intended to be thematically tied or otherwise connected. However, Blumberg and Wuenschel are artists invested in the material possibilities of the human form.
Wuenschel’s large-scale figure drawings are grand in size and operatic in intent. Here the classic nude undulates and crumbles in poses both sensual and pained. Wuenschel centers the jouissance that has long been attached to female-coded figures throughout the Western art historical canon. Excess abounds, it hurts to have fun, the body here both shimmering disco ball and fluid-stained dance floor. Gender for most of Wuenschel’s models is secondary to the position of the body as a host for desire. This is not to negate the importance of Wuenschel’s explorations of gender as a culturally constructed ideal, but rather to frame the relationship between gender and desire here as one where the limits of desire are muddled through the presence of the feminine, the queer, the non-binary. Desire does not rise and fall in Wuenschel’s dances, it is pervasive, abundant and painful. These are figures that not only ask but plead, “Where do you begin and I end? Does it even matter?”
For Blumberg the tactility of flesh, with all its attendant oddities, frailties and abjection, translates to abstract sculptural pieces that play with notions of the individual and the collective. The pieces also trouble the boundaries between public and private spaces; the work forces viewers to question their conceptions of beginnings and endings, the boundaries between art and the space in which it exists. Blumberg’s objects are deeply entwined within the realm of the senses. The pieces are tactile and pliable; their proximity to visitors allows them to invade both one’s space and line of sight. Each of the forms—composed of repurposed domestic objects and a mix of rubber, plaster, pigment and metal—are fantasies of skin and bone. Empty, liminal spaces haunt Blumberg’s objects. Holes and openings compose interiorities that disturb and disrupt the surrounding spaces. Like the human body, there are parts hidden within each piece. There is a desire to know what remains cloistered, to crack the ribs and let the heart lay bare. Yet, like the body, Blumberg’s objects remain enclosed, their secrets always kept.
“Homebodies” and “Body Contact” are reminders that to know a body, to know one’s own body, is an exercise borne of desire and pain. To be uncomfortable, itchy under the skin, in pain, is what it means to be vulnerable, a hot-blooded creature in the world. These empty spaces, these holes, bruises and cracks, are the precursors to connection. To join with another, to live in the aftermath of wanting, to desire, to renew that want again and again—that is what it means to live with your body in this world. (Annette LePique)
“Homebodies” and “Body Contact” are on view at Ignition Projects, 3839 West Grand, through September 24.