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All Dolled Up: Eric Fischl Examines ‘Disturbing Innocence’ in Chelsea Group Show

Jake and Dinos Chapman,  Doggy, 1997.COURTESY THE FLAG ART FOUNDATION

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Doggy, 1997.


The Saturday before last, Chelsea’s Flag Art Foundation opened “Disturbing Innocence,” a wonderfully weird and beguiling show about dolls curated by the artist Eric Fischl. Every piece in this show has something to do with some kind of doll, from Mike Kelley’s stuffed rags to Jennifer Rubell’s buxom, life-sized mannequin, whose crotch visitors can use to crack walnuts (which are provided by the gallery). There’s also a bust by Giacometti and a 1938 sculpture by Hans Bellmer of a pile of breasts rising to heaven as they grow in size.

Stepping out of the elevator, one is met by images of suburban order—the show is inspired, in part, by Fischl’s childhood in suburban Long Island—including a sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein and an image by Gregory Crewdson. Around the corner, the show gets into what the catalogue calls “mannequins, morphs, and robots,” where Louise Bourgeois’s mummy-like couple in pale pink appear to be doing something in between copulating and dying, and an untitled Robert Gober sculpture turns outdoor plastic café chairs into a nightmare. Male childhood, Fischl told me, as we walked around the show, often features some point at which the boy-child feels the need to destroy his dolls. We stopped in front of a Henry Darger which features men in hats strangling little naked girls.

Don’t leave the show without going upstairs—that’s where things get really weird. There are RealDolls (sex dolls) involved, and a bed that looks like it should be in a hotel that charges by the hour.

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