Chelsea Culprit

Pole on Break

Queer Thoughts
373 Broadway, B3
New York
Apr 5th — May 8th

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A headless figure wearing stripper stilettos crouches on its knees, supporting its arms on its legs. Bathed in lambent light, this shadow just barely emerges from the crepuscular blue that constitutes the ground of the painting Tempestarii in Flight (all works 2022). The shadow pauses. It deliberates escape from the desiring gaze and its reflective duties as an obedient mirror. Below, a portion of the canvas extends past the frame of the painting, so that some of the stripper’s knee and stiletto dangle. In another painting, Symbolic Shadow, contorted legs fold toward the top of the frame while further down, a chunky heel leaps over the threshold of the canvas. In Culprit’s paintings, sharp stilettos and bulbous appendages frequently dance out onto the wall. The extensions are the artist’s attempt at making tangible the liminal space where desire coagulates. When pushed to the libidinal edge, where the terms of exchange are always written by and for someone else, how far is the body willing to go?

For the artist’s third solo exhibition at Queer Thoughts, “Pole on a Break,” Culprit comprises a sculpture and a suite of new paintings. The latter marks a subtle shift in Culprit’s visual lexicon, turning away from the bright hues of Pop and Cubist perspective games evinced in her earlier work. The blue gloaming background against which these off-white shadows cavort adds a layer of narrative tension. Several of the shadows are referred to as Noctámbula, or night owls, while others are of lithe hands that make contact with a cohort of animals. In Noctámbula as Self-Basting Turkey Roast, the titular cooked bird has a human hand that strokes its supple breast, restaging desire as the overwhelming negotiation between consumption and imitation. In Neuro-Cisne, an adaptation of the Greek myth in which Zeus changes into a swan to seduce Leda, Culprit portrays Leda curling ribbon-like fingers around her assailant’s throat while jabbing her shoe hard into Zeus’s chest and flailing neck. In the center of the gallery, the stainless-steel Relaxed Pole writhes like an echo of the Leda-swan imbroglio. As you approach the pole’s “mirror-polished” surface, your own twisted image is implicated. —John Belknap

Chelsea Culprit, Tempestarii in Flight, 2022. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 48 inches