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Yale Union, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Rosemarie Trockel, "What it is like to be what you are not," 1993, photogravure, 14 15/16 x 11 7/16"

Continuing through December 20, 2015

From the turkey-serving matron in Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” to Faye Dunaway’s histrionic inhabitation of Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest,” depictions of motherhood in popular culture have run a harrowing gamut. That dialectic is central to curator Hope Svenson’s challenging group exhibition, “MOMMY." The included works range from the reassuring symbolism of Sonya Hamilton’s “Charlie” (2014), a small adobe sculpture of a house, to Rosemarie Trockel’s decidedly un-warm’n’fuzzy “What it is like to be what you are not” (1993). In that piece, a set of photoengravures documents a scientific experiment in which  spiders were dosed with psychotropic drugs. The resulting spiderwebs, with their wildly canted angles, speak to the transmogrifications of physicality and personality some women report during pregnancy and motherhood.

Anicka Yi’s “Signature of Things” (2015) consists of four back-lit Plexiglas vitrines containing living bacteria cultures taken from staff and board members of Yale Union — they have effectively become the “mothers” of these agreeably creepy molds. Most disturbing of all is Aura Rosenberg’s “Dialectical Porn Rock” (1989-2012), an array of 32 rocks imprinted with images culled from soft- and hard-core pornography. To so explicitly link women, sexuality, and motherhood is hardly new — Greek tragedy, Shakespeare and Freud loom among the more obvious antecedents — but Rosenberg demonstrates that the trope retains its power to provoke.

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