At first glance, the sculptures on display at Asya Geisberg Gallery resemble little more than garage sale kitsch. After all, miniature porcelain ponies look more at home on a suburban coffee table than a gallery pedestal. But step closer and you'll see that the raunchy works in Hearts of Oak, Annie Attridge's first solo show in the United States (through February 12), are a far cry from your grandmother's collection of Hummels.
For one thing, Attridge's subjects are usually headless. And more often than not, they're a tangle of limbs, bare buttocks, or a crop of female breasts. Suffused with a rosy, post-coital blush, her miniatures twist and stretch, simultaneously melting into the tiny landscapes she's built around them. Slick with potter's glaze and splashed with sweet pastels, they almost seem made of sugar. But despite the saccharine color scheme, there's nothing coy about Attridge's work. While traditional, European porcelain miniatures (and contemporary knock-offs) are so obvious that they teeter on the edge of vulgarity, the subjects of Attridge's skip any ironic pretense. They are positively libidinous, striking a curious and humorous balance between the trite and the titillating. "Love on the Rocks" (2010), a miniature hill of coral, is peppered with flowers and breasts. A small hollow in the front of the sculpture reveals a pair of lovers, and a view that can only be described as pornographic.
One of the most interesting pieces is "Termite Boobie" (2010), a bronze sculpture of four dignified breasts rising from a porous, amorphous base. While she's isolated an eroticized element of the female form, the medium belies mere fetishization—bronze is used for statuary, to commemorate heroes. Yet the work's title implies degradation, and the fragile-looking base reflects the same. What Attridge is saying about the historic rendering of the female form remains unclear, but appropriately complex.
The chilly shine of her sculptures' glaze is tempered by Attridge's charcoal drawings. Dark and warm, she focuses on universal themes like love and nature; hearts—both anatomical and stylized—are a recurring theme. In "There is Thunder in Our Hearts" (2008), the viewer spies a knot of limbs and vines in the darkness through a heart-shaped lens. The forms wrap and writhe among myriad natural elements—rain pours in the background, a tree bows their way, and a moonlit lake sits placidly to their right. A volcano, in the throes of a terrific eruption, stands tall in the background. True to Attridge's explicit tastes, it acts as a climactic metaphor. Less than subtle, to say the least.
(images courtesy Annie Attridge, Asya Geisberg Gallery)