An embroidered nipple. Hand sewn pubic hair. Even the words provoke unease and curiosity, the desire to stroke the obscene with a tender hand.
Orly Cogan's manufactured and appropriated linens serve as the cultural backdrop for her ethereal figures, composed of hand sewn dotted lines and embroidered nether-regions. Often appearing like flighty '80s Oui Oui models turned gods and goddesses, each character is caught in the midst of nervous experimentation and ecstasy. Many seem unsure of their new-found innocence, while some take advantage of a another's distraction, sneakily petting a vagina, or holding a penis as though they were nicking a wallet.
Still others (the veterans of this world?) have ventured into bestiality. Many creatures, dogs, lobsters, and bears, seem to have intentions of their own, sometimes attacking vaginas, sometimes appearing as delighted cherubs around a couple's embrace.
Cogan's use of vintage fabrics, outdated but not beyond our recent memories, incites strange memories. Like a mother's apron and linens, or a green and brown, leaf-patterned tablecloth that we sat at refusing to eat our peas, we are already both attracted and repelled. By layering these scenes of sexual delight and unnoticed horror, Cogan seems to propose that these elements are ever-present, then and now, hidden by veils as thin as these.
Cogan eroticizes the very nature of linens and the act of sewing. Rather than simply reusing a previous generation's products for mere commentary, she nearly respects them, using them like two-way mirrors into the like-minded fantasies of competing generations.
In "Allegory," a mix of embroidery and paint on a pale, vintage tablecloth, a group of women are gathered like saints and angels in an ochre-flowered celestial-like realm where the night sky is dotted with deeply-pink areolas and thick embroidered hair. The women simultaneously embrace, fondle, and ignore each other to their own liking. The age and scale of each woman varies, creating a seemingly randomized hierarchy that hints at a state of constant flux between each woman's assertive and passive roles.
Cogan seems to make a statement about the role of women in general, as being something recently unhinged and possibly capable of exploding into a world of unfettered delight. The men, somewhat unchallenged in these works, seem to be just fine with that.
Orly Cogan: Tangled Up in You
Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago
June 02—July 08, 2006