Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 hit “She Bop” became infamous when the Parent Music Resource Center included it on its “Filthy Fifteen” list of sexually explicit pop songs, for its not-so-veiled lyrical allusions to masturbation (“go south,” “the danger zone” and “I’m picking up good vibration” among them). Lauper cheekily responded to critics by pointing out that her song never explicitly mentions self-pleasure, thus making it safe for the airwaves and the unsuspecting ears of American youth. “She Bop” could just be a dance or a nonsense phrase, until one listened more closely and heard the promise of forbidden knowledge.
Sharing its name with Lauper’s song, this exhibition of six mixed-medium sculptures (all 2015) by Oakland-based artist Maria Guzmán Capron offered a similar mix of the goofy and the libidinal. Created primarily using discount fabric-store textiles, Capron’s crazy-quilt assemblages aren’t necessarily about sex, but her knowing mix of the tacky and suggestive offers a convincing material counterpart to the precocious glossolalia of Lauper’s choruses (“She bop he bop and we bop / I bop you bop and they bop / Be bop be bop a lu she bop”).
Capron has a penchant for playful yet obnoxiously unappealing printed textiles (among the more memorable are some garish ginghams and fabrics patterned with pizza and fauna), which she pieces together into semifigurative soft sculptures worked over with all manner of paint and topstitching. Details include a distinctly feminine thigh, tattooed with sparkly thread, that pokes out of the lower half of a vaguely toucan-shaped form in Greetings from Anywhere; the glazed ceramic fruit, plopped in a pile of dirt, of Berry; and the ceramic flower buds embroidered on the tentlike covering of Slowly but Shirley, which took over the gallery floor.
Many of Capron’s more interesting shapes, textures and especially colors and patterns are best appreciated up close, and get lost when the pieces are viewed in the aggregate. The arrangement felt cluttered, due to Capron’s ambitious use of scale—the whale- or buffalo-like form of A Dame Who Knows the Ropes took up almost an entire gallery wall—and to her surfeit of materials. The dirt, glitter and wooden understructure incorporated into the aforementioned Slowly but Shirley draw attention by being incongruent but don’t contribute to the conversation happening among the textile patterns. To which I can imagine Capron responding with a resounding “whatever.” Restraint certainly isn’t part of her modus operandi. With an extended makeout session between an ice-cream cone and a lit cigarette illustrated in Hot, Cold, an accompanying coloring book, “She Bop” seemed to set the stage for a potentially illicit slumber party that I don’t think I was invited to but was allowed to preview nonetheless.