A Whisper Out of Range
Sienna Reid and Franck Hodelin
It's always exciting when two very different artists find common ground, especially when that shared space is sexy, controversial, and accessible to almost all viewers. Curator Wade Bonds adroitly paired Reid and Hodelin based on their fascination with flesh—both in terms of the pleasures and mortification. Reid has an interdisciplinary practice: video, photography, installation, and drawing, while Hodelin focuses more on traditional oil painting and works on paper, yet the subject is mutual and the connections numerous. Hodelin records Black Gay and Trans bodies at rest. They luxuriate on beds and couches, seemingly both suggestively and post-coitally. Hodelin is obsessed with the infinitude of flesh-tones of Blackness—browns, grays, ochres, siennas, and umbers, and how they define musculature as well as tender soft patches. He paints in a palette of desire both forbidden and personal. Reid approaches from a different trajectory. Rather than mythologizing flesh, she presents bodies, female, via the unflinching lens—both sensual curves, but also the reality of rubbery cold skin. In a series of four fourteen-foot tall, slender banners Lusus Naturae Columns I, II, III, IV (2016), she presents a headless female body from the four cardinal points, a body inscribed with angry words in English and Italian: “violenza,” “notorious,” and “killer.” Referencing the public shaming of Amanda Knox in Italy—an event the artist experienced in that country and uses as a touchstone to expand on the treatment in the court if public opinion of women in general.
Installation view, A Whisper Out of Range
Franck Hodelin, Washed Ashore
Reid and Hodelin face off across the double height gallery space. The painter’s tones are soft and indulgent, as in Kick up your Heels, where a naked figure gazes coyly over their shoulder as the curves of their body meld into the folds of the bedclothes, and mimic a hilly vista either seen through a window or a canvas hung on the wall. The soothing undulations are broken by the sharp heels and bright vermillion of a pair of pumps that are the only article of clothing worn by the figure. Reid answers these erotic fantasies with stark black and white photos and videos, and a series of 12 stained and varnished incised wooden panels, with titles such as Sex-Crazed Killer, Strega, and Sexual Psychotic. Modeled on the desperate inscriptions of inmates in a prison, these panels have the aged quality of walls that have seen wave after wave of trapped emotions, whose only outlet is the most basic crude mark scratched into a wall. Bonds, the curator, places the two artists side by side in only one brief moment in the exhibition: at the back of the ground floor, where Reid’s series of 35 Corset Drawings encircle Hodelin’s delicate pastel figure study Washed Ashore. The Corsets are each made from words and phrases Man Eater (2016), A Vixen with Dark Impulses (2020), literally words that are used to constrain women. The jagged irregular lines of script form these simultaneously erotic and painful articles of clothing which frame the tender yet somewhat predatory view of the youth asleep in Washed Ashore.
At the back of the second story loft of the ChaShaMa gallery we find the only pairing of figures, a painting by Hodelin In Your Arms Tonight: ironically, two sets of legs nestled against a stark pale yellow background. Close by are 18 photos of Reid’s words on the Body/Black and White (2023): segments of a body; hands, torsos, breasts. In Hodelin we have a melding of male bodies through love, or at least pleasure, in Reid we see the female body dissected by sexist critique. At the front of the gallery space Reid has created an installation: a box of ostraca (shards of pottery with text, used almost like note cards in archaic times) which quivers and produces an ominous rumbling sound, entitled Ostraka (2013) and made with Marselle Reid-Jaques. The ceramic fragments are inscribed with words like “Cold Killer” and “Lilith.” In ancient times they were often used to vote or deliver illicit messages or empower magic spells. More than their independent meanings, it is the sound of the whole—a collection of words, emitting a low unnerving noise throughout the gallery, that underlines both artist’s goals of injecting a subversive sexual and social destabilizing energy into contemporary norms.
By William Corwin, November 8, 2023
Images left from right: Sienna Reid and Marselle Reid-Jaques, Ostraka (2013), Sienna Reid, Lusus Naturae Columns I, II, III, IV (2016), “kick Up Your Heels” Franck Hodelin Header image: Franck Hodelin, In Your Arms Tonight Images Courtesy of Wade Bonds.