Art Basel Miami Beach
December 1 – December 4, 2011
David Castillo Gallery exhibits new works by Kate Gilmore and Xaviera Simmons at Art Basel Miami Beach Art Nova 2011. Gilmore and Simmons mine the essence of female protagonists from performed, illustrated, and natural landscapes. The artists use realism and manipulation to traverse the surfaces of these alternative landscapes, leading them away from self-portraiture and toward an investigation of individual identity.
Kate Gilmore is the leading lady of her video works. She leads herself through challenges of the nerves, endurance, and physical safety. Often, Gilmore competes in feminine attire conspicuously ill-suited for the self-imposed task at hand. Donning a ponytail, pink dress, and silver high heels in Pot, Kettle, Black, Gilmore exasperatedly attempts to shelf vessels of the black paint that seems to be leaking like rainwater into the room. Gilmore’s antics are not a reclamation of gendered materials or pastimes. The struggle Gilmore portrays in all her work is the displaced complexity of contemporary womanhood by enacting both perpetrator and victim. In her brightest limelight, Gilmore threatens to turn the glass ceiling into the landscape of a grave.
Xaviera Simmons’ photographs and sculptures are not origin myths explaining gender, race, or ethnicity; they are origin myths explaining the consciousness of individual identity. In the photograph Denver, a woman stands ankle-deep in a river, her loose garments and gesticulation seeming to hover an incantation over the current. Unlike Dr. Livingstone’s infamous expedition for the source of the Nile, Simmons’ protagonist is not subject to the tropes of the Victorian era. Rather, Simmons situates her at the fountainhead of ontology where, like the northward-opening Nile, she can interpret its infinite tributaries, footnotes and ellipses. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, community, and systems of belief are as malleable and free-flowing as water.
Lacan’s theory that humans can understand themselves as both separate from and predicated by larger systems constitutes one origin myth of how Simmons came to use her own body to portray her protagonists without creating self-portraits. While Cindy Sherman alters her physicality to evolve a narrative portrait, Simmons allows her found environments to dictate. In Untitled (Pink), a woman faces off against the ominous root system of an overturned tree. Simmons’ works are an exercise in seeing the monster in the underbrush, the heroine in the pedestrian. Breedlove as an example of the artist’s sculptural work is comprised of 250 Mason jars filled with refuse and exhibited with the dangerous curiosity of early ethnogenesis and the contemporary ambiguity of Damien Hirst. This work stages for the viewer the same opportunity experienced by Simmons’ protagonists: the opportunity to face off, within and against an environment’s pre-existing forms, reinforcing the quest for individual identity against the heavyweight of historical specialization.