Shotgun Review Archive

Orly Cogan, “The Wonder of You”

By May 21, 2007 Cogan starts with vintage linens decorated with brightly colored embroidered motifs ranging from geometric designs to frolicking kitties and barnyard animals. To these, she adds her own confidently simple, embroidered drawings. The handiwork of stitching, culturally associated with women practitioners and decorating the home, becomes the vehicle for imagery that is run through by the erotic and the intimate. Her work hosts a cast of characters, starring Cogan, a female protagonist; her male consort; and a sprinkling of supporting roles including Disney-esque fairy tale princesses and Alice in Wonderland. Our heroine, among other female figures, appears in various states of undress - bras and kneesocks are recurring garments - in limbo between public and private. She gazes up at us from under the vintage motifs, mostly on tablecloths, stretched like canvases and hung on the wall. With a deft lightness, these sewn/drawn images posit a fantasy world, yet one rooted in domestic moments and intimate scenes before or after sex, and, at times, druggy or sugar-sleepy. OrlyCoganGreenHaze.jpg Green Haze, Hand-stitched embroidery and paint on vintage linen. 50 x 43 in. Green Haze is a chaotic jumble that starts with an every-which-way tablecloth design dotted by springtime clich├ęs. Birdies, strawberry baskets and strutting roosters emerge from the swirl of embroidery. Cogan weds these with intersecting figurative drawings of reclining nudes who spread out in all directions, mandala-like. The artist dyes small areas of the fabric green, or tan, which helps orient the viewer. Apples become breasts, a star marks a woman's bare ass. This is voyeurism that uses the language of children's book illustration to render an intimate portrait that puts us in the position of looking with a lover's eye. Each stitch points to the next in slow and lingering lines that ask us, too, to take our time looking. The Wonder of You features a central figure, again the artist, gazing, this time, rapt with attention at a frog held in her hand. Corgan's fairy tale heroine inhabits a domestic space of agency, while clad in a bra and jeans, inviting our gaze. The Wonder of You tells a tale of the voyeuristic pleasure of perception; the work becomes a crafty take on Carolee Schneeman's notion of the "eye body", that which simultaneously acts as subject and object. Nearby, our two main characters hover, engaged with lines of cocaine. Alice in Wonderland borders these scenes, reaching towards a pink cake with a knife stuck in it; a woman caresses a man's face; a cartoon princess hovers. This is the pleasure principle, all right. The actors are present in the way a child perceives the world: wholehearted, engaged, uninhibited, and reliant on the senses. The round robin of smaller figures encircling the protagonist seems to belong to the domestic realm of daytime loving. There is the same cast to many works: the adults seem to be lovers; yet they appear separately, for the most part, sleepy or alert, looking directly at us as if we're their honey wielding the camera. OrlyCoganAliceInBlunderland.jpg Alice In Blunderland, Hand-stitched embroidery and paint on vintage tablecloth. 37 x 35 in. Sex-positive feminist imagery runs rampant in Alice in Blunderland, where polar bears pleasure women and small naked ladies frolic in nature, using outsized penises as plaything or adornment. Sure, it's porn, but it looks all the world like a children's book centerfold. The central figure is the artist, smoking, while the girl child Alice strains to see over a tabletop precipice separating her from adult pleasures. The drawings snap to 2D from a certain distance, but, upon closer examination, one begins to see wrinkles and thread textures. In Eclipse, a peeking nipple doubles as a raised stitched pink star. The move to 3D is carried further in the wall installations, choppily drawn using thread looped around straight pins to form small groupings of familiar characters, one of whom offers up bunches of thread pulled from her very outline in a gesture of creation and elision, becoming a stand-in for the artist at work. The Wonder of You: Orly Cogan will be on view at Steven Wolf Fine Arts from May 3 - June 23, 2007

Comments ShowHide