Skin Games, Flesh On The Brain


While organizing the group show “Hair and Skin,” curator Isaac Lyles considered recent research into “mirror neurons” and “physical empathy” suggesting that the human brain simulates the experience of what the eyes are seeing (now we understand how porn works). “Social and political situations fluctuate, but the body remains immutable,” Lyles writes in an e-mail. “Sensory experience is the doorway through which art passes.”

The 16 artists included here provide plenty for the senses—though be thankful you can’t smell the dried semen, snarled hair, actual teeth, and fake fingernails sealed in two resin wedges on the floor. Ghastly but fascinating, Lionel Maunz’s Excavator, Fornicator (2013) could be an ancient sarcophagus crowbarred into pieces, or perhaps a reliquary for some drag queen’s most precious accessories, the bright nails conjuring a defiant spirit in the face of terminal rot.

Similarly, Daniel Gordon’s 2012 photograph Shadow Eye Portrait mines perverse beauty from fragmentation: Violently torn images of hair, lips, teeth, and other features have been collaged into a garish female profile that casts a smooth, alluring shadow, from which stares a roughly cut-out eye. Like the characters in J. G. Ballard’s novel Crash, who fetishize violent car accidents, this woman gazes winsomely upon her own disfigurement.

Elsewhere, Hans Bellmer’s photos of dismembered dolls chime aesthetically with videos by Aneta Grzeszykowska and Maria Petsching, who crop in tightly enough on themselves to disembody their own bodies and explore the separate but fused sensations of caressed surfaces and probed orifices.

If you can’t escape to the Hamptons during these sultry dog days, this is the perfect show to get under your hot and sticky skin.