Now through February 25, the Women’s History Museum presents OTMA’s Body, their first solo show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Women’s History Museum, established in 2014, is the moniker of Amanda McGowen and Mattie Rivka Barringer, who often work in close collaboration with friends and other artists. The group typically combines performance, image making, and clothing design in their work, and recently began to incorporate sculpture, music, and video as well. This exhibition, on view through the end of the month, features clothing, jewelry, prints, and sculptural pieces.
The show’s title comes from the self-given acronym of the Grand Duchesses, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia Nikolieva of the Romanov dynasty who were executed in 1918. OTMA’s Body reads as an interpretation of the Grand Duchesses’ lives and, significantly, an imagination of the material artifacts and objects left in their wake. “Sites of comfort and self-contemplation,” as the press release describes, “intricately inscribed throughout with sutured dreams and desires. These are emotive, palimpsestic objects, at once hyperbolically domestic, at the threshold of the supernatural, and as much repositories of personal significance as they are spaces that echo with moments of friendship and solidarity.”
The exhibition will be accompanied by two additional events with close collaborators of Women’s History Museum: one ASMR-inducing self-help makeup clinic by Gogo Graham, and a night of image and words featuring Gabriela Rivera-Morales and others. OTMA’s Body represents a truly collaborative and multi-modal reflection on the waste and decadence of the lives of the Duchesses it is named for. Scraps of floral fabric, wings, and furniture draped in seemingly cast-off clothing fill the space of the gallery. The area becomes a stage, set for the interventions of artists and viewer/participants alike. Fabric assemblages hang suspended around a face, emerging as a centerpiece, that glares down with saturated, reptilian features.
Eyes, faces, and bodies of femme subjects are a strong presence throughout, and the gallery seems transformed into a hybrid between an adolescent girl’s bedroom and a runway. In fact, all the garments exhibited are for sale, they can be taken off the rack, tried on in the dressing room, and purchased. This atmosphere of potential purchase is nothing new to the space of a commercial gallery, but somehow the act of browsing takes on a new force when projected onto clothes and mannequins. Visitors are encouraged to touch, try on, and go home with a piece. The ability to select and wear the work lends the work exhibited an animated, embodied potential, as the viewer herself is invited to participate in the performance of reanimating material remains.
OTMA’s Body showcases work from the Women History Museum’s previous collections, including embroidered furniture, jewelry, and accessories. The performances that punctuate the exhibition resemble the classic model of a fashion show, but emphasize the aspects of performance and experimentation therein. This is WHM’s first retail exhibition, but hints at a potentially fascinating future of bringing together experimental fashion design and performance.
— A. Corrigan
Exhibition Page [Gavin Brown’s Enterprise]