Taylor Swift’s “Lover” and the Gastric Flu
Conceived in the glow of new romance and trailing a career-low dud, Taylor Swift’s 2019 album Lover was confectionary and soft where 2017’s Reputation had been spiteful and hectoring. In a return to form, the singer offered swooning, moon-eyed ballads (the title track) and a years-late, NOH8 kiss-off (“You Need to Calm Down”) before climaxing in a vein-bursting primal scream of self-love (“ME!”).
For her part, the British artist Josephine Pryde could not stop throwing up. Inspired by a brush with a stomach bug as the titular record looped endlessly in the background, “Taylor Swift’s Lover and the Gastric Flu” at Reena Spaulings is quite simply a show about music that makes you sick. Operating on a premise so stupid it’s transcendent, Pryde offers a room-temperature buffet of bleary-eyed video, vaguely fecal sculpture and oppressively bright photography that aims to materialize the crossed-wire condition whereby ear candy goes down like stomach poison. It is a low-stakes, low-effort, half-concept show whose white-cube clinicality jars until Pryde’s strain of sick humor sneaks up on you.
Like the painters Issy Wood and Gina Beavers, Pryde’s gambit as a photographer is to trigger cross-sensory cringe, capturing images that are so glossily taken but so texturally wrong they register like nails on chalkboard. The Tile Shelf Ran the Length of the Bathroom (2021/2022), which itself runs the length of the gallery, is a shot-by-shot accounting of Pryde’s frenzied route from her sickbed to the toilet and manages to pervert Irving Penn and Eadweard Muybridge in one go.
Of particular note are Pryde’s sculptures, chewing gum that the artist masticated to the beat of each Swift track stuck onto found driftwood and cast in bronze. Initially unimpressive, the blobs of gnarly green and brown look as appetizing as they sound, while leaving a metallic aftertaste at the thought of their production, one I will now forever associate with Lover by Taylor Swift. —Harry Tafoya
Josephine Pryde, London Boy, 2022. Bronze, 2 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 6 2/3 inches. Photo courtesy Reena Spaulings