Theorist Julia Kristeva once described Modernist romantic melancholy: “Abjection, recognized as welded to narcissism, has in Proust something domesticated about it.” Kristeva might well have been referring to artist Ida Applbroog’s most recent exhibition, Monalisa, on view now at Hauser & Wirth in New York. Here, the domesticated pets are mostly ink drawings of female genitalia. The salon- and grid-hung works featured in Monalisa feature more “whole” portraits to eerie, even pathetic figures with smudged cheeks and uncannily open eyes. This investigation is not entirely for our benefit—or, it seems, for anyone’s. Monalisa presents a series of vaginal self-portraits (all 1969) made during a period of personal crisis, and one senses Applebroog’s ennui in the repeated line drawings. The artist, now nearing 81, is showing at Hauser & Wirth for the first time.
Here are the facts on Applebroog:
The artist is known for her drawings and paintings of figures, which oscillate in style between washy ethereality and linear, illustrative renderings. Her work is often chromatically paired down and set on bare, atmospheric grounds. She has also experimented with film and video, including the works Lunch Hour Tapes (1977), It’s No Use Alberto (1978) and Belladonna (1989).
Applebroog was born in 1929 in Bronx, NY. Her strict upbringing informed her work, she says: “I come from a very rigid, religious background. And it’s the idea of how power works- male over female, parents over children, governments over people, doctors over patients, that operates continuously.”
The artist did not begin exhibiting until her early 40s. She cites Samuel Beckett as an early influence on her work.
Of her subject matter, the artist has said, “I do a lot of work on violence all the time. ‘Why are you so obsessed with violence?’ And you know my answer? I look at them and I think. ‘Why do you say I’m obsessed with violence?’ I live in this world… When I’m doing the work, it’s like I’m in the studio and I have all this stuff on my back. I have all this baggage, and I try desperately to start working. I’m carrying in how the postman looked at me that morning, what did my dealer say to me, what did my friend say on the telephone–all the different things that go on in your mind.”
MONALISA IS ON VIEW THROUGH MARCH 6. HAUSER & WIRTH IS LOCATED AT 32 EAST 69TH STREET, NEW YORK.