Marking a new chapter in a body of work that has long mined the strange juxtapositions of history, culture, form and space, artist Marguerite Humeau has touched down at the New Museum this month, opening a show of works that will remain on view throughout the fall season. The show, titled Birth Canal, presents a new body of digitally rendered sculptures realized in cast bronze and carved stone, each proposing its own unique vision of how to think through the understanding of the body and it relation to modernity.
Humeau’s work often centers on the origins of humankind and associated histories of language, love, spirituality, and war. Each of the artist’s projects is prefaced by a period of intense investigation during which she engages diverse authorities on her chosen subject, including historians, anthropologists, paleontologists, zoologists, explorers, linguists, and engineers. Through her interdisciplinary, speculative inquiry, she enriches her own thinking as an artist and researcher, and refashions historical quests to reflect the information age in which we live.
For this show, the artist’s works are remarkable in their evocative, surreal movements between easily recognizable human forms and distended, alien shapes. Allowing the body to serve as a central canvas that can both be a departing point or a familiar touchstone for her bold formal adventures, Humeau’s arrangement of figures is presented as something of a rogues gallery, a collection of different personas that create a strange mise-en-scene, assembled bodies and organs (or perhaps, in some cases, bodies without organs) that each open up an alternative development of humanity.
The show begs the question of how one might constitute the future of the human or non-human body, how the working through of formal questions presents new understandings or ideas of how to work through a world without the concepts of current existence in place. Potential futures and changes mingle alongside each other, always inviting the viewer to consider both states of being and how these states might cross-pollinate each other. For Humeau, this is perhaps the most interesting point. Not only are her works explorations of deep historical and social movements and frameworks, they equally present each facet of her work as exchangeable, allowing the viewer to move effortlessly from site to site, timeline to timeline, and personality to personality. In a world where fragile egos and fraught politics see increasingly rigid public opinions adopted, Humeau’s work is a welcome reminder of fluidity and evolution.
The show is on view through January 6th.
— D. Creahan
Marguerite Humeau: Birth Canal [New Museum]