Fear and Loathing
Creep!!! at Skinroom came about from a casual conversation between two artists; Abigail Jensen and Eliza Webster — the director of Skinroom Gallery. Eliza had been receiving borderline stalker texts from a man, and the two stumbled across his page online, listed on FetLife.com, a social media platform like Facebook, but kinky. Aside from his continued unwelcome advances, they found themselves finding out more intimate details about his life and personal preferences than they ever wanted to know. Jokingly, they laughed about making an exhibition about this experience: Creep!!!
Centred around creepiness, unsolicited attention from men, and general undesirable smut, their works follow this theme. Although most works in the exhibition are flat works on paper or board, there are several installation pieces. In the first room, a yellow sheet of plastic cut with metal stud punches and rings hangs. Translucent and thin like stretched, pierced skin, this work by Jensen recalls Eva Hesse’s latex and canvas hung works. In the second room, Webster installed a dentist chair from the 60s, the leather somewhat grimy and flesh-coloured. This chair had come with the lease for Skinroom, and its presence emphasises the carnal viscerality of Jensen’s works (the name of the gallery itself recalling its history as a dentist practice, and later tattoo parlour).
Jensen’s pieces for this exhibition are take-it-or-leave-it psycho-sexual works. Largely concerned with the bodily functionality of sex, these works on paper feature toothy grimaces, predatory eyebrows, scribbled labia and black holes of body cavities. Largely, these organs are devoid of subject, meshed together and floating against negative space. Chain links weave over some of the surfaces, and gestural, almost frantic dashes and slashes of ink and paint punctuate the paper. Beneath a smile, one work reads ‘Do you know this asshole? WILL grab your ass, spike your drink, and pretend 2 look after you.’ Another work, Cock Board was pinned with a g-string, drawings of condoms, a peeled banana, and a gay couple making out, one with a swastika tattoo (for shock value?).
Some of Jensen’s works revert to representations of erotically charged fruit with open and spilling cores and seeds, which I found somewhat pedestrian and lacking imagination. However, her works maintained a compositional dynamism between different media, and the heavy-handed gesturalism set a distinct tone of anger and corporeal disgust.
Webster’s acrylic paint works were much larger in scale. Telescope featured a dripping and nude female figure, seemingly boneless and disjointed, while Memento Mori showed a large red skull over layers of decorative patterns. Brain Hole took a turn for abstract expressionism, and had a smudgy palimpsest of paint layers, which hinted at complex figures but remained inarticulate under a haze of swirled washes and shellac. Resisting a clear reading, Webster said that this work referenced forms of monsters, and her work process was a layering of addition and deletion, building up figurative layers which she then deleted or painted over. Although Webster’s works marked a ‘representation of [her] mental state at the time’ and most seem to swing between gestural fear and anger – this work, with harsh colours toned down by muting coats of shellac, suggested lenience and contemplation.
I loved the fact that the exhibition resulted from a shared disdain for creepy men who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and presents a creative response to this feeling of helplessness, frustration and revulsion. More impressively, all the works were created under immense time pressure for this show – save the dentist chair.