“Lichen! Libido! Chastity!” Anthea Hamilton’s debut solo museum exhibition in the US is an arrangement replete with ostensibly handcrafted objects that engage desire and fetish. Here, parts of everyday life are taken as whole—that is, as whole worlds of their own—in which marketing, pleasure, design, and biology influence the objects’ composition and comprehension.
Investigating cultural appropriation and pop culture, Hamilton mines countercultures in music, fashion, and design (such as disco in the 1970s) and their entrance into the mainstream. Hamilton questions the representation of cultural phenomena through popular media in her sculptures and videos.
For example there are five boot sculptures on view, Natural Livin’ Boot (all works 2015) features a boot with crusted, peeling leather and flaky lichen clusters that decorate the chunky-heel platform shoe and its knee-high shaft, permeated with pebbles. Two works of a similar silhouette, Holistic Towel Platform Boot A/W and Holistic Towel Platform Boot S/S, embody a slightly more glamorous aesthetic that adheres printed terry cloth to towering leather shafts stuffed with silk scarves. In the exhibition Hamilton juxtaposes recognizable goods with extravagant flourishes of design and construction, trading codes of functionality for an aura that engages viewer desire—under scrutiny, these objects stir an unresolved, immiscible tension of attraction and repulsion.