Jordan Wolfson: Art and Objecthood

at the Broad, Los Angeles (Through January 20, 2019)
Reviewed by Emily Nimptsch

“I was mostly just interested in the physicality of what I’d seen in the animatronic field, and I was also interested in making a sculpture that had the potential to be chronological or structural in the same way a video is. My hope is that the work dips in and out of spectacle.” 一 Jordan Wolfson

Beginning with the iconic Venus of Willendorf and her luscious curves, the Western art historical tradition has long associated the female body with consumption and objecthood. Now, in this modern age of technology and the #MeToo Movement, provocative American sculptor Jordan Wolfson’s hypersexualized animatronic figure currently on view at the Broad Museum deliberately challenges the viewer with its seemingly stereotypical depiction of women. Undoubtedly, this demeaning representation is bound to trigger consternation and spark debate. The artist is no stranger to this kind of controversy. His violent virtual reality-based installation at the 2017 Whitney Biennial shocked and horrified both critics and visitors alike. While the Broad’s (Female Figure) is far tamer in comparison, it does effectively question the progress of gender equality in America and echo Edouard Manet’s Olympia (1863) in its subversion of the male gaze.

Image for post
Image for post
The Broad museum exhibition of artist Jordan Wolfson’s (Female figure), 2014 on Oct. 8, 2018, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

In countless celebrated paintings and sculptures across the ages, we witness the active masculine eye feasting on passive feminine flesh. This is not the case with Wolfson’s Broad installation. Although the artist presents this robotic woman as a heterosexual man’s idealized fantasy complete with cascading platinum hair, a corset top, and a sheer mini skirt, this figure stares back and objectifies the viewer with her own empowered glare. She also defies our expectations by donning a green witch’s mask. With its wrinkled forehead and hook-like nose, this disguise makes the woman appear resistant, mysterious, and multidimensional. Visitors may soon find themselves wanting to know more about this character as they notice alarming details like patches of dirt smeared all over her outfit and body.

Also disconcerting is a shimmering steel rod connecting her chest to an adjacent mirror. This stripper pole-inspired fixture skewers her. Like an umbilical cord or leash, this beam prevents her from ever leaving this one spot. It tethers her to this unfortunate reality and serves as a devastating reminder that she is forever attached to her sexual identity. Through her seven-minute routine rife with laughter, flirting, song, and dance, one can feel the figure try to physically and emotionally unshackle herself from this restraint. However, if she were a real woman, she would almost certainly bleed out. . .

To read the entire review, go to Riot Material magazine: https://www.riotmaterial.com/jordan-wolfson-art-and-objecthood/

And please follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/riotmaterial/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store