I walked the avenue til my legs felt like stone.
I heard voices of friends, vanished and gone.
At night I could hear the blood in my veins,
just as black and whispering as the rain.
Ain't no angel gonna greet me,
it's just you and I [sic] my friend.
And my clothes don't fit me no more,
walked a thousand miles just to slip this skin.1
Overflow, oxidation, and imperfection transform Entrance’s outdoor vestibule into a grotto, where the artist presents a fountain en plein air. In Ass-backward , Englander mounts a torso atop an Ionic column, utilizing the form of a Renaissance “term” figure, a grotesque interpretation of the human form derived from Greco-Roman models. Working with nontraditional materials (steel wool, discarded plastic bins), Englander draws on the degradational method that Calvinist builders used in the overly ornate architecture commissioned by their aristocratic Catholic patrons in the 1500’s. In such structures, subversion is generated by what scholar Catharine Randall calls “the friction between [...] two apparently twinned but in fact warring systems of signification,” 2 —that is, the normative aesthetics of the dominant group versus the radical, reforming vision of their builders, secretly encoded in complex iconography and faulty construction.
In the exhibition space, a suite of five etchings are held in ornate artist frames. Englander has chosen her contemporary Robert Graham's public sculpture Torso (2003) as the subject. Set on a Rodeo Drive median strip surrounded by luxury fashion stores and palm trees, Torso remains serene albeit contextually grotesque. Attending closely to passers by and to the sculpture's surrounds, Englander’s etchings point to the tension between rhetorical and experiential meaning in public space. An editioned folio of prints accompanies the show.
Elizabeth Englander (b. 1988) lives and works in New York, NY. She received a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011, and is currently working towards an MFA at Hunter College. Englander has shown internationally since 2015. This is not her first solo show in New York.
1 Bruce Springsteen, “Streets of Philadelphia,” 1993.
2 Catharine Randall, Building Codes , 1999.