Reviews

Amy’s Web: Amy Cutler at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York

Through July 29

Amy Cutler, in collaboration with Emily Wells and Adriana Papaleo, Fossa, 2015, interactive multimedia installation, dimensions variable. ©AMY CUTLER/COURTESY LESLIE TONKONOW ARTWORKS + PROJECTS, NEW YORK

Amy Cutler, in collaboration with Emily Wells and Adriana Papaleo, Fossa, 2015, interactive multimedia installation, dimensions variable.

©AMY CUTLER/COURTESY LESLIE TONKONOW ARTWORKS + PROJECTS, NEW YORK

A collaboration with musician Emily Wells and hair stylist Adriana Papaleo marks a heady detour from—or amplification of—Amy Cutler’s compulsively rendered two-dimensional works. The wit is here, and so are the pathos and preoccupations, but giving it all three dimensions adds visceral depth. This interactive, multimedia installation features seven often surrealistic works on paper, such as a gouache drawing, titled Stampede (2013), featuring the nude upper portion of a woman propped up on a bed absent her bottom half as little horses stampede out of her open torso, and You Were Always on My Mind (2013), a cut-open head describing the brain’s animated actions. Here are networks of tangled tales, culled from dreams and fears, real and metaphorical.

The installation focuses on a small wallpapered room with a superabundance—800 feet—of braided hair wound together to create a beehive-looking sculpture with thick rope tendrils growing from it and reaching up and out. Wrapped Japanese-looking patterned-cloth bundles are positioned around the hive, and a shelf of wooden-chocolate-style bunnies pose in attendance.

Amy Cutler, You Were Always On My Mind, 2013, gouache on paper, 22⅛ x 23 inches. ©AMY CUTLER/COURTESY LESLIE TONKONOW ARTWORKS + PROJECTS, NEW YORK

Amy Cutler, You Were Always On My Mind, 2013, gouache on paper, 22⅛ x 23 inches.

©AMY CUTLER/COURTESY LESLIE TONKONOW ARTWORKS + PROJECTS, NEW YORK

The show, titled “Fossa,” like this installation and one of the drawings, is an homage to connections of every sort—work, play, girls/women alone, together, talking, suffering. The women’s braided hair connects with the braided ropes, which like spiderwebs link up to trees and woven fabrics (women’s work) and tie up burdens. For Cutler, “fossa” refers to a “depression” or “hollow,” and into such holes women “unburden” themselves as they expound on their arduous lives. The braids link up to headphones that stream music along with recorded conversations, including one between Wells and her father in which they talk about coming out as gay at around the same time.

Fossa (2016), a drawing, is a rendering of women living in a hollowed-out tree. We perceive a highly active utopian society, whose inhabitants relentlessly relate to one another and to their environment, while at the same time we have a sense of claustrophobic enclave and wonder how tightly knit an ideal society should be.

Cutler takes some new swings on her ropes of hair and domestic scenes reminding us of old-fashioned switchboard banks and of vines weaving through jungles and of networks running through the brain. The women in their perpetual state of busyness grow their hair, comb it, wash it, braid it, and use it to relate to and domesticate nature and everything around it, including us.

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