Magazine article Artforum International

Amy Cutler: Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects. (Reviews: New York)

Magazine article Artforum International

Amy Cutler: Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects. (Reviews: New York)

Article excerpt

The women in Amy Cutler's world don't have it easy. Two especially surly specimens, umbrellas strapped to their heads, rest from a jousting match on goats; tiny red puncture wounds mar the combatants' sweaters (Umbrage, 2001). Elsewhere a platoon of girls one-ups the tractor-pull-with-teeth trick, using their outrageously long braids to drag an entire farmhouse off its moorings-in a snowstorm, no less (Traction, 2002). In the more than three dozen works that constituted her first solo show in New York, Cutler demonstrated a seemingly boundless imagination for surrealistic plights and sadistic feats. The drawings and paintings on paper and wood have the fanciful aspect of children's storybook illustrations hut are subverted by a hint of something darker, often violent.

While Cutler's cast includes some Edwardian ladies and a few guys, it's dominated by women and girls of sturdy country stock, with ruddy cheeks and mostly sour or resigned expressions. All act out scenes from folktales of the artist's own idiosyncratic making. Lily, 2001, seems to illustrate a kind of creation myth: A bewitched farmer's wife got stuck in a pond, her skirt floated up around her, and that's how the first lily pad came to be. In fact there are quite a number of raised or billowing skirts showing off solid legs. It's hardly provocative, but rather perversely folksy: The skirts transform into tents, the aforementioned lily pad, or, in Navigation, 2001, a sail for a woman on skates gliding across a pond. Sweeper, 2001, features an elegant lady with broom arms and dustpan feet, hiding dirt beneath her dress; and in Marisol, 2001, a nineteenth-century hoopskirt becomes a perch for a small flock of birds.

Birds and braids, too, play key roles in Cutler's iconography. Despite being precariously strung between two trees by her ankles, the girl in Genara, 2001, calmly offers her long, coiled braid as a bird's nest. …

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