Anne Doran’s wall-based sculptures and images in “Photo-works (1985–1991)” were created during a decade rich with women artists, many of whom put a feminist slant on their work. In a male-dominated art world, it was almost impossible for these artists to avoid addressing gender and sexuality.
Doran was no exception. For the ten works on display here, images were appropriated from sources ranging from pornography to military magazines. They were then fragmented and combined to produce works that hint at connections between male aggression, consumerism, and sex.
These linkages are made explicit in the wall piece Friendly Fire (1991), where photos from pornography publications are sliced and arranged in an explosive starburst pattern, and in Rack #5 (1991), a sculpture whose title refers to both its own structure and a crude term for a woman’s chest. In the office area of the gallery, two collages featured body-outline targets from a shooting range, dotted with bullet holes and overlaid with pornographic images. Less obvious, but also suggestively aggressive was Untitled (AD01), 1988, an assemblage showing sections of a girl’s head amid pictures of a car crash.
Doran’s wall sculptures present an original approach to her materials. The photographs are mounted on boxes made from wavy-edged honeycomb aluminum, which are then joined together with aluminum bars that keep them tangentially connected. Set at angles and unevenly spaced, the works emanate an anxious, jerky quality; however, the skill and care with which they were made evoke the craftsmanship of a past era.
Feminism can be unforgiving. Although Doran clearly critiques pornography in her work, she was attacked by other feminists in the 1980s for using pornographic images. Disillusioned, she turned to behind-the-scenes roles in the art world. This show amply demonstrated that the artist’s work is still relevant. In many ways, her fragmentary wall sculptures anticipated the digital revolution and its web of interconnected imagery.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 96.