Joy Curtis at Klaus Von Nichtssagend

Joy Curtis: Skeleton Woman

Curtis’ fourth solo show at Klaus Von Nichtssagend reveals an illuminating step forward for figural abstraction in sculpture. Freed from the typical constraints of the floor that standing sculpture deals with, the six works in this show display a proclivity for flowing forms that address the physical body through mastery of fabric. Hand-dyed or treated cotton, linen, or silk is gathered together, posed by wire, hanging from the wall, or suspended from the ceiling; giving the impression that these “skeleton women” are alive and potent. In several works here, the frayed or cut textiles represent rib cages. Some have cast wax forms furthering an anatomical read with vital organs, others have cast bronze forms representing the sacrum bone (the tailbone).

One work here, titled Plants and Animals, takes things a step even further—with the addition of small animal cut-outs from paper and batik-printed fabric sewn into small pillows in the shapes of hands and feet. The piece sprawls through space, appearing to glide across the floor, with Medusa-like coils emerging from everywhere. The animals are held up like small signposts, raising a temperament atmosphere surrounding the figure— both wild and domestic—like a meditated force of nature. Capturing energy, life, and movement in physical form, Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase gets kicked to the curb.

Two works, The Inner Hospital and Body Pillows, occupy a corner of the gallery together, introducing stars or constellations to the bodies. The Inner Hospital appears with the Big Dipper occupying the space where the head would be, in Body Pillows, organs, and body parts dot a line connecting them across the wall. With The Inner Hospital, a suggestion is made that an interior world is unfolding, one yet tied to the heavens. Healing, combined with dreamy catharsis, lingers in the beautiful, yet subtle violence overall. As captured in the poem from the press release (an Inuit story told by Clarissa Pinkola Estés), comfort comes after rage: a needed assertion of the primal and essential physicality of nature. “Skeleton Woman” tells us to remember both life and the dream— but also, not to forget the sphere surrounding physical vitality, the stars, and the ground.

December 4 – January 9, 2021