Magazine article Artforum International

Zoe Paul: The Breeder

Magazine article Artforum International

Zoe Paul: The Breeder

Article excerpt


Zoe Paul


Zoe Paul's solo exhibition "Solitude and Village" embodied a harmonious universe where the divine resides within the domestic, the individual alongside the collective. Like a cross between a cult temple and a midcentury living room, the space was arrayed with seven disembodied clay heads supported by architectural platforms, the walls covered in frescoes of giant nudes engaging in sexual acts or relaxing in solitary poses, each painted in expressive strokes of natural clay and whitewash. The stylized sculptures recalled Modern Primitivism; the arrangement of the irregularly shaped plinths, topped with decorative floor tiles, invoked a syncopated jazz rhythm. Marred by cracks as if ancient relics, the male faces had frozen expressions, their mouths open as if in midsentence.

Paul makes weavings using discarded, often rusted, refrigerator shelves as warps, which she forages from around the island of Kithira, where she spent much of her childhood, and with yarn salvaged from deconstructed traditional Greek blankets. Some of these abstract compositions are based on the allegorical hand gestures of Byzantine and Catholic saints attesting to the Incarnation--the joining of divine and human natures found in the body of Jesus Christ. Three of the sculptural works--&, iiii, and <> (all works 2016)--were placed on the frescoed walls like religious icons; these recalled Abstract Expressionist paintings, their dazzling shocks of color and voluptuous textures provoking a visual throb that induced a hypnotic state of mind.

Suspended in the stark white room below were two ethereal screens, Drop It Like It's Hot and Suppliant Branches at My Knees, adorned by generous female figures that recalled archetypal fertility symbols, their features as distorted and elegant as a Venus of Lespugue reinterpreted by Picasso. The first woman squats down in the dance move referred to in the title, taken from Snoop Dogg's 2004 hit, the eternal badonkadonk defined in pink outlines that echo the glow of the neon tubes highlighting the cusp of the wall and floor upstairs. The title of the second invokes the Argive mothers in Euripides's play The Suppliants, who beg for the bodies of their seven warrior sons--perhaps the men whose heads are portrayed in clay upstairs. …

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