March 5th, 2021
Open now at Galerie Eva Presenhuber’s New York exhibition space, artist Lucas Blalock has brought together a body of new works under the title Florida, 1989, marking his second solo exhibition with the gallery. Drawing on memory and trauma, Blalock’s work in the show explores his own history, and its traces appearing throughout his work.
The show title is drawn from a savage accident in Disney World, when the artist’s thumb was crushed beyond repair in a freak accident on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, requiring it to and surgically replaced with his big toe. An experimental procedure that saved the artist’s ability to use his thumb, and maintain use of his hand, the artist’s life was forever shifted, creating psychological blocks and distinct physical aftereffects.
The exhibition seems to take on this subject as a reckoning of sorts for the artist, directly centering this event in the descriptions and framing of the works on view, but this event seems to also draw much of his past work into focus as well. His pieces have long engaged with ideas of collage and horror, bodies and forms cobbled together into strange and disturbing new, monstrously remixed portraits. There’s a distinct sense of disquiet, in the way that he transforms dime store tchotchkes designed to project sunny, childlike optimism into objects of menace. Here, however, the artist’s work turns directly towards these traumas, presenting images of childhood, twisted shadows of a child in a Mickey Mouse hat or a surreal subversion of a hotel pool, with each piece giving off a sense of a haunting childhood event drawn closer into focus.
Interspersed with this scenery are nods toward the unseemly realities of the body—its frailties, its unruliness, its horror—that have been commonplace in Blalock’s work for years, return here freighted with additional psychic weight. In some works, objects serve as stand-ins for states of psychosexual distress, like the limp, uncooked hotdog in Single Father, the hirsute medical brace in Hairy Armature, and the sickeningly slick-surfaced, vulva-like object in Rubber Dog Toy Insides, multigraph, a chew toy in the shape of a hotdog that has been cut open and turned inside out, photographed using another popular piece of 19th-century optical trickery.
The result of this choreography of images and ghostly apparitions brings Blalock’s practice into a more crystallized, and intensely disturbing mode, bringing a weight and heft his works long hinted at to the surface, while allowing the broader subject matter to run free from the artist’s own work. Mirroring a look inwards with one out into the world beyond his own experience, the show marks a commanding step forward for the artist.
Florida, 1989 closes April 10th.
– D. Creahan
Lucas Blalock at Eva Presenhuber [Exhibition Site]