Walking into Kelly Reemtsen’s show felt like walking into a glamorous boutique… only to realize, it sells nothing in your size. Buoyant images of charmingly attired female bodies cropped at the torso hang on the De Buck Gallery’s spartan white walls. Each woman is elevated. They climb ladders and stand on office chairs wielding industrial tools with the ease of fashion accessories. Other paintings are zoomed in still lives of fetishized shoes. At the center of the gallery are three oversized lipstick sculptures upturned and put-out like cigarette buttes smashed into plinths. Tucked into the corner is Xanax Rainbow a playful assortment of five pastel pills made from resin and reminiscent of pez candy.
Unsurprisingly Reemtsen has a background in fashion design. Her figures feel like models, standing in, as models often do for a carefully crafted idea of femininity. This effect is accentuated by their lack of heads and faces. Everything about this show from the clever title, Smashing, to the pristine 1950s silhouettes of dresses is tied up neatly with a bow; made easy for consumption. Even her brush strokes, which give the impression of buttercream icing rather than painted oils, fit in with the Good Housekeeping meets glass ceiling tone of the show.
I can’t help but wonder if this saccharinely sweet delivery does her message justice? Just as with a well merchandised boutique I want to shop here. I want to own those sassy four-inch polka dot heels but that doesn’t mean I will be able to walk in them. Reemtsen’s work begs the question, can a woman really smash ceilings while standing on a desk chair in a party dress wearing heels?
Review by Liz Ayerle: Read more about Liz on our contributors page.