Paradox: Do You Want a Needle or Dice?
Curated by Lingfei Ren
Works by Yuli Aloni Primor, Katinka Huang, Rosie Kim and Georgia Lale
SPRING/BREAK Art Show NY 2022
625 Madison Ave, New York, NY
September 6 - 11, 2023
Many works of Medieval art depict women as abnormal, less human, aliens, objects of desire, and sexual predators that make men fall. They also often demonized them as monstrous. In Genesis, the disguise of Satan - the snake in paradise - one influential theologian, Peter Comestor (d. 1178), proposed was not an ordinary snake, but a dracontopede - a serpent with the head of a maiden.1 According to Comestor, Satan chose the dracontopede because it would be an effective way of persuading Eve, since “like favors like.”2 Throughout the Middle Ages, female monsters are depicted in various forms throughout ancient myths, such as gorgons like Medusa, sirens, and the sphinx in Oedipus Rex, a combination of the bust and head of a woman and several other animals.
Meanwhile, females are ideally and sacredly represented as the maid of the Lord, virgin, bride of the Holy Spirit, mother of God, fighter against the infidel, mediatrix, queen of heaven3, etc., in the feminine ways of existence, regardless of individuality in female totality. However, Mary Magdalene, considered a sister in the Middle Ages, has a contradictory visual representation: the prostitute, whose body became a contested site of corruption and holiness, sin and redemption. Throughout history, women have been associated with descriptive characteristics such as emotional, overly sensitive, hysterical, fearful, neurotic, and gossipy. For instance, “长舌妇 (big mouth or long tongue women)” has always been a classic of female character in demand in many forms of arts and entertainment. Despite the fact that the feminine is an archetype that exists in all of us, feminine principles have been and continue to be dismissed, devalued, denied and downgraded in our culture and our societies.
In the early 20th century, Coco Chanel revolutionized the course of women’s fashion by borrowing elements of men’s fashion. More recently, Mugler - with its style of tiny waist, super tight fit, and aesthetic expressed in sexualism, primitivism and fetishism - has become one of the hottest fashion brands in the states. For women, as being incessantly depicted, gazed at, represented and symbolized, externally and internally, the dilemma of how to “‘properly’ be a woman” is still one of the biggest confusions among those in their formative years, and to some, the entire life.
Paradox: Do You Want a Needle or Dice? brings together four artists, Yuli Aloni Primor, Katinka Huang, Rosie Kim and Georgia Lale - whose works include paintings, sculptures, drawings, video-performance and mixed-media installations that play around with female characters as their protagonists and antagonists, to portray, empower, or, satirically flatter, deepen the stereotypes of femininity, which has been socially, religiously, politically and economically constructed on and on.
Yuli Aloni Primor portrays their subjects as mutated dreamlike hybrids. Don’t Tell features a female mannequin speaking or expelling a thought bubble that takes the shape of a monster. Redemption shows an anatomically spliced woman while an avian figure is gnawing and pecking their way through their insides. In their drawings, Primor portrays femininity with associated symbols such as snakes and seduction, bleeding deer, and a wolf and pregnant woman to emphasize the romantic narrative of female characters that are immersed in the virtual culture.
Katinka Huang touches on the psyche of femininity, addressing the notion of the hysterical woman. The Western definition of a hysterical woman, which has become sensationalized globally through media, includes traits such as untamed, wild, fearful, neurotic, too emotional, and too sensitive. Pickle It if You Don’t Know What to Do With It shows a disfigured person. Their entire being is leaning and being absorbed into a jar. The process of being pickling is to preserve, but to what end? As consumption, as display? Tantrum features a discombobulated figure. Two faces portraying different stories, anguish and contentment.
Rosie Kim’s work plays with the theme of desire through fruits. In their diptych The Game, Kim mixes fruits, renaissance sculptures and a chessboard to showcase a game where coincidence, conspiracy, and uncertainty are all at play. A game where theory, calculations, and multiple variables take part to decide the victor. A game where the queen who should have the most power, is quite limited in reality. This scenario is also sculpted in Neither Dice Nor Cherry, plaster-made objects mixing fragments of ancient Rome and Greece’s sculptural forms of husband and “Hetaira” with contemporary shaped objects: dice and cherries, embodying historically unresolved questions: where does woman gain the inner security? Cloaked in an atmosphere of melancholy but vibrant, exuberant fruits and fragment body pieces, the work evokes the profound absurdity of gender-based limitations, even considering the current progress of feminism globally and the contemporary representation of the structural forms of the contemporary women.
Georgia Lale’s work addresses domestic violence, censorship, negligence of women’s emotional and psychological needs, and questions gender stereotypes around identity and sexuality. The tongues series is made up of sculptures and video performances. The Golden Tongue, which started from a dream of Lale’s back in January 2013, is dedicated to female and womxn empowerment. Lale’s jarred tongues are a reminder of Huang’s pickled jars. In this scenario the tongues are displayed in an orderly fashion like lab specimens.
Paradox: Do You Want a Needle or Dice? aims to show audience a look into the feminine and all it entails, the physical, the psyche, and the mutable. It invites audience to take note of the spectrum of femininity and how it is a journey that is explored and felt, rather than jarred up and pigeonholed into one all-encompassing definition.
Yuli Aloni Primor is an interdisciplinary visual artist investigating the feminine psyche as it relates to both personal and existing modes of myth making and heritage. Born in Tel Aviv to a family of artists and civil rights activists, Aloni moved with her family at age seven to NYC. In 2013 she received a BA from the Fine Arts Department at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Israel. In May 2023 she graduated with an MFA in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. She currently works from her studio at MANA Contemporary, New Jersey.
Katinka Huang moved to England from China at a young age - not with her family - but on her own. Huang attended an all-girls boarding school whose Western ideology about gender and propriety conflicted with the eastern ideology of femininity that she was brought up with in China. That ignited her interest in examining the feminine psyche. In response to the artist's state of confusion and alienation, she created alter-egos as a coping mechanism. Huang uses these alter-egos in her art practice to create satirical images of women with warped and animalistic bodies that portray absurdism and turbulent emotional states. In 2023, Huang received her MFA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts. She now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Rosie Kim is an interdisciplinary visual artist living and working in New York City. She received a BA in Silversmithing and Jewelry Design from The Glasgow School of Art in 2018, and an MFA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in 2023. Kim’s works constantly alter, extend, and transform conventions to each other. Often adopted by the spirit of late Renaissance, her work which resulted in jarring juxtapositions of the nude, takes an emphasis on the abnormality of scale, and an irrational combination of classical motifs.
Georgia Lale is a visual artist and cancer fighter based in Brooklyn. They received their MFA from the School of Visual Arts, NYC (2016) as a Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation scholar and their BFA from the Athens School of Fine Arts, Greece (2013). Their work has been featured in major art festivals, such as the Art in Odd Places, NYC (2022), the Venice International Performance Art Week, Italy (2020) and the Brussels Nuit Blanche Festival, Belgium (2016). Lale’s work has been exhibited at A.I.R. Gallery Biennial (2023), Border Project Space (solo show 2022), Collar Works (2021), Smack Mellon (2018) and Shiva Gallery (2018), among others. They have participated at academic conferences organized by the Dedalus Foundation, the MoMA Archives, the Yale History of Art Modernist Forum and the Yale School of Management. Their #OrangeVest performance was presented at the Greek Pavilion of the 15th Venice Biennale of Architecture (2016).