Review: Miriam Cahn

A familiar aesthetic delivered with fresh flourishes.

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  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

    cahnONLINE1

    MEAN GIRLFRIENDS what I see is what I feel

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

    cahnONLINE2

    the exact look

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

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    Installation view

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

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    Installation view

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

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    reading in dust/menstruation work

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

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    motherly

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

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    Untitled

  • Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

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    Untitled

Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York

cahnONLINE1

MEAN GIRLFRIENDS what I see is what I feel

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Born in 1949, Swiss artist Miriam Cahn is old enough to have been around for the Neo-Expressionism boom of the 1980s, so it would be remiss not to note stylistic affinities that her oeuvre shares with some of the art from that moment—especially a propensity for self-mythology trumpeted through a personal, imagistic iconography. In Cahn's case, these include vaguely architectural forms, beasties, and largely indistinct figures that sometimes share a contour with the alien from Area 51. Nevertheless, the offerings in her first New York solo show—works on paper that, with one exception, are intimately small—mercifully lack NeoEx's signature bombast.

Indeed, though Cahn has shown consistently in Europe over the past 30 years, she's fairly new to these shores and for this reason resembles someone like Louise Bourgeois: A late bloomer whose aesthetic was forged in a bygone era, but whose work seems fresh to contemporary eyes.

Many of the drawings here—which span a period from the late 1970s until now—are unapologetically redolent of the artist's touch. In a series of images featuring a menagerie of shadowy animals, for instance, certain details—the tail of a fish, the feathers on a bird—clearly show evidence of finger marks. The one large-scale rendering on view—of a TV sitting forlornly on the floor—is stamped with footprints. Like everything in the show, the work is unframed and pinned casually to the wall. Its surface is torn and repaired with Scotch tape, and its edges are worn and ragged. The whole thing looks like Cahn, or someone in her studio anyway, had beat the shit out of it.

Although some of the titles—Mean Girlfriends, Menstruation Work—suggest a certain post-feminist cast to Cahn efforts, on the whole she seems more interested in meditating on the evanescence of life and memory. In this respect, the disposable treatment of her objects is simply a case of form following function. And while there's nothing really new going on here, Cahn makes the most of it. She delivers her work with unique, if lugubrious, panache.

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Elizabeth Dee Gallery, through Apr 2

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