Home Ech

Perfect homes, deranged women— amid the opulence of postwar suburbia, wives maintained facades of placid domesticity while controlling everything from their husbands' careers to the color of their draperies. Their houses were extensions of their bodies, their upkeep a precious necessity, their soiling a horror to be avoided. Harriet Craig, heroine of an eponymous 1950 Joan Crawford movie, cultivates a mania for household management so overwhelming that all her relations wither under its influence. Inspired by this harridan, critic David Rimanelli has curated a suggestive show about female paranoia and interior decoration.

Harriet is the patron saint of PMS in an alarming, 12-minute videotape by artist Alex Bag, who shrieks Crawford's lines to cowering domestics in drag and to her short, pathetic husband. Her tyrannous pathology looks at once hilarious and horrifyingly familiar, while still shots of Bag expressing disgust and abhorrence recall 19th-century medical photographs of hysterical women.

Martha Rosler's arresting photomontage series, Bringing the War Home(1969­72), shows women in elegant domestic interiors, with scenes of social violence collaged between the curtains. First Lady Pat Nixon stands smiling in her lemon yellow living room, oblivious to the young woman riddled with gunshot spliced into the gilded frame above her.

A few works here— Christopher Wool's single floral painting, Chivas Clem's photographs of Las Vegas art collector­ impresario Steve Wynn— seem unnervingly decontextualized. But John Boskovich's sculpture is at home. This clear vinyl chamber, whose volume matches the artist's body, is etched with the story of Saint Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, who moved about her court invisibly in a nun's cell that God designed for her. An image of confinement and despotic surveillance, it's something for the Harriet in us all.

 
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