Ridykeulous 2006 reviewed by Jessica Robertson

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Nicole Eisenman and A.L. Steiner’s curatorial response to pop culture, the art world and the zine scene.

In this modern/post-modern art world, men still dominate, as exemplified by the recent Whitney Biennial, where only 1/4 of the artists chosen were women. Be that as it may, the most pioneering artists are female, while their work is shoved off to the corner of "lesbian" or "feminist," with its merit stifled to a specific quotient and expectation. In their most recent group show, titled Ridykeulous, artists and co-curators Nicole Eisenman and A.L. Steiner tackle this social conundrum, sassily poking fun at what it means to be a “lesbian/feminist” artist, and the interesting reflexive relationship such “fringe-scenes” share with the general public. The show shares its name with Eisenman and Steiner’s paper publication on the same subject; Ridykeulous the ‘zine premiered in 2006, and is available through PrintedMatter.org.

A prolific and well-awarded artist, Eisenman has received several prestigious grants, including a Guggenheim, and has showed her work in shows including the Armory and the Whitney Biennial. Most remarkable about her personal art is her use of veiled humor (rather than overt bitterness) to emphasize the pure absurdity of the political. Lately, her work tends to take the shape of overflowing spills of installations, paintings, sculpture and collage. She invites viewers in with fun colors and bright illustrations, then startles them with content that might not be quite so amicable.

A.L. Steiner is a New York-based artist working mostly in photography and video, and is a member of the collective Chicks on Speed (chicksonspeed.com). Her work, which is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum, draws out the tension and neurosis of the immediacy of modern snapshot-style photography.

Relying on the collaboration of a slew of prominent and emerging artists (many of whom are frequently grouped in the genre of “feminist” or “lesbian”) Ridykeulous pushes the exploration of how lesbian culture is perceived and redefined by the mainstream, and then goes a step further to bite back. The work overflows from every wall and corner of the gallery space, creating a colorful cacophony of confrontation and subversion. The show presents a strong D.I.Y. ‘zine-type aesthetic commonly associated with “feminist-lesbian” art, through video, instillation, photographs, murals, sculpture and performance.

A sampling of some of the pieces: Paige Gratland’s sculptural instillation “Celebrity Lesbian Fist (Eileen Myles)” consists of a silicone mold of writer Myles’ clenched hand darting through a wall. Further off, Christian Lemmerz’s “Charles Saatchi’s Dick” plays with the idea of female castration fantasy, depicting the lifeless floppy penis of the legendary art collector, bobbing around in a urinal of blood and shit. Particularly amusing is Lindsay Brant’s “Bush Wackers,” in which paper-mache beavers in the midst of oral sex lie on the floor right below Lisa Sanditz’s mural, “Pussy Den.” artist K8 Hardy’s “Fashionfashion Money Look” is particularly tongue-in-cheek. A slender grinning girl sits spread-eagle, menstrual blood soaking her dollar-sign encrusted underwear.

“Ridykeulous” works en masse to deconstruct and rearrange the rules and assumptions of a culture forced into a corner of specified alterna-art, underlining female/lesbian objectification in hetero-normative mainstream and the forced commodity of female art. Both overwhelming and disordering, “Ridykeulous” succeeds in turning imposed definitions on their heads, making them at once absurd and incoherent.