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JH

Maternal Appurtenances

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Ava Seymour, Manhole, 2023, Maribu solvent screen-printing ink on aluminium, 1120 x 910 mm, unique. Installation of Ava Seymour's Manhole on the porch beside the Coastal Signs gallery entrance. Ava Seymour, Electric Ladyland, 2023, photographic paper, (Milford Smooth Pearl & Fuji Flux), Dibond, aluminium frame, UV glass, 299 x 348 mm, ed. 3 + 1AP Installation of Ava Seymour's By the Way in Coastal Signs. Ava Seymour, By the Way, 2024, Maribu solvent screen-printing ink on elgian linen, 1800 x 1220 mm, ed.1 + 1AP Ava Seymour, These Are Selling, as installed in Coastal Signs. Ava Seymour, These Are Selling, 2023, Maribu solvent screen-printing ink on Belgian linen,  2200 x 1400 mm, ed. 1 + AP Installation of Ava Seymour's exhibtion, Heels of Mothers, at Coastal Signs. Ava Seymour, Extensive Damage, 2024, Maribu solvent screen-print ink on Belgian linen, 1400 x 3000 mm. ed.1 1 + 1AP

The heavily textured photograph, 'Manhole', the leaning panel, is covered with a grid of tiny black and white halftone dots to spatially delineate the form of a skirted woman in a photo from a fifties fashion mag. She has one of her high heels caught in a circular drain-water grille. It is stuck in one of the gridded holes, and so is a strange reflexive pun mocking Seymour's screened photograph choice of rendering process and its accompanying gridded optics.

Auckland


Ava Seymour
Heels of Mothers


14 March - 13 April 2024

We discover three white canvases from Seymour, with black screened images, hanging on the long wall of Hopkinson’s space, and one very intricate aluminium panel leaning on a small wall in the porch by the entrance. There is also in the office a smaller framed work of a white fluffy cat over which is placed a glossy photo by the artist of the New York transgender singer Amanda Lepore, on her hands and knees. We don’t see her feet. One of Lepore’s albums is called Fierce Pussy.

The heavily textured photograph, Manhole, the leaning panel, is covered with a grid of tiny black and white halftone dots to spatially delineate the form of a skirted woman in a photo from a fifties fashion mag. She has one of her high heels caught in a circular drain-water grille. It is stuck in one of the gridded holes, and so is a strange reflexive pun mocking Seymour‘s screened photograph choice of rendering process and its accompanying gridded optics.

The screened black on white canvases though are much less dense as images. They are based on informal collage, with a chopped-out text often at the bottom, and high-heeled women’s footwear positioned above. They emphasise the materiality of the photographed, cut-out, & typed-on inked texted paper—and snipped out magazine ad.

While Seymour’s title alludes to the absent maternal penis postulated by Freud in his then innovative 1927 discussion of fetishism (the desired object masking over—as a substitute—the gap resulting from the violent act of castration), these works are actually more general in their interpretative possibilities. Still elucidating Freudian fetishism, but also incorporating the theory of Marx via Benjamin as commodity fetishism perpetuated through the spectacle-aligned marketing and selling tentacles of capitalism.

By the Way—on the far left—presents a vertical (erect) boot as Russian, a marketing ploy linking (‘feminine’) boots by mental association with fur hats and thick heavy coats. It incorporates lush imagined textures and the exoticism of Russian orientalism.

The middle canvas, These Are Selling, plays off the marketable slender ‘spikey’ heel versus the flat-tipped ‘dud’. We have both vertical and horizontal versions of the ‘winner’ image just as in the overall show the ‘Russian’ boot is both vertical, and horizontally supine. This painting (ironically?) endorses those shoes that as a purchasable commodity will attain a profit, and scorns those that don’t.

On the right, Extensive Image makes a joke about penis-less mothers who as wearers of fetish items, even vandalise the support base for a receptacle designed to hold holy water. ‘Font’ here has two meanings, (again reflexively) the typeface and also the container, the latter being a cavity (a ‘Manhole‘) for Christ whose mother was a virgin as well as penis-less. It deliberately muddles the carnal significance of the two definitions.

This is a tougher show from Seymour than the more accessible, more sprawling, Gatt-curated ‘cat‘ project now on at Te Uru. There is nothing cute in sight. Nor for that matter, anything fascinatingly ferocious.

Amusing at times, it is also understated and cerebral, pushing the viewer’s capacity hard for any interpretation of unusual image and text juxtaposition. It is an intriguing area to think about, particularly as any intended critique of commodity fetishism, in the form of salable painting (even if incredbly oblique, using parallels between shoes and artworks), inevitably undermines itself.

John Hurrell

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