"Babyface" -- 55 Mercer, SoHo, New York -- 20 November - 15 December 2001

From: Tiresias
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 04 December 2001


Babyface - at 55 Mercer (SoHo, New York)

November 20 - December 15, 2001.

Catherine Hall and Megan Hall Lipke

Heads heads heads, probably 400 or so in three large installations and four smaller ones. A myriad of candy-colored faces in dolls' head sizes, chairs and clothes in proportion, some with bodies, a great many without.

A lot of it seems to be about transformations - of materials (well, that's what art's about innit?) and concepts: the idealized fantasy childhood we carry in our heads is transformed to (sometimes sinister) reality by using fantastic figures like the rabbit-eared humanoid attached to the wall as if sitting on a rug, the only figure in a large (maybe 7' by 10') 1920's living room - "Home Sweet Home" -- painted in blacks and greys. Monochromatic, enigmatic.

And about memory and rebirth, with one of the dolls in the "Circle of Manic Dolls" cast from (Megan's) great-uncle Walter's stump sock - he lost a leg in the Great War (WWI, that was) and Aunt Kitty eventually made a doll from the sock he wore on the stump - here it is renewed, cast in plaster and wax, and with a new head. It's one of the dolls sitting on chairs apparently watching a chocolate-colored skeleton that shares a blue bed head-to-toe with a pinkish doll wearing a diaper and one sock - death and rebirth, or the perils of having a bed partner with smelly feet?

The paradoxes of ideas and materials give this show its depth as cloth becomes plaster in the cast doll clothes like a line of washing on the wall, and wooden chairs are finished in wax.

Hard to pick a favorite. Maybe the large installation ("Lamentation") where there is a hill of multi-hued candy-colored heads (probably 250 or more of them, each about 1 to 4 inches in size and with an enormous range of facial expressions) under the branch of an otherwise bare tree with a single very unhappy looking head in a barren monochromatic landscape (the tree from Giotto's painting that also provides the name of the work; three small angels' wings among the heads provide a further and nicely understated connection to Giotto's angels). Is this a display a playful comment on fall foliage, or does it show the sole survivor of some horrific genocide screaming for help and for retribution for the innocents whose disembodied heads will become an ossuary, not a heap of decaying leaves?

Or the third large installation, "Shirley Temple Paper Doll Wardrobes with Invented Heads." This is a painted plaque about 7 foot high and 6 wide, with about 20 to 25 paper doll outfits painted in blacks and greys, complete with the hinges that are used to attach them to the cardboard figures children dress. Some clothes are detailed, others just shapes, and about two-thirds have heads (cast hydrocal faces with encaustic surfaces, like the other heads) - green, blue, yellow, pink.

Here, as everywhere, the heads display a whole range of facial expressions, so varied that it's hard to credit that they were originally cast from mass-produced commercial dolls' heads - transformed from a world where no two were different to one where there are no two alike -- individuality restored, another of the engaging paradoxes of these installations.



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