Caroline Coon review
Time Out says
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Caroline Coon has painted a vision of herself with a single, monstrous, enormous, gnarled, veined, manly hand. It’s one of the first things you see in this show (which opened back in October but is on through to December). Her naked body is thin, angled, fragile; her skin hangs loosely, her face is heavily lined. But that hand is something else: a grotesque, masculine appendage that she has somehow grown.
That’s how her art works – mutation, pride, rebellion. The old-school punk (she managed The Clash for a bit) paints with absolute precision, nothing is a mistake. All the symbols of masculinity being forced through a mincer, all the rebellion, the attitude, the subversion, it’s all on purpose.
It starts sedately enough – a quiet London street, a vase of flowers – but things ramp up pretty quickly. Nude footballers leap for a ball before a rapt crowd, they have both breasts and cocks, male features and big, full, red-painted lips. Their bodies are in motion, moving through the air and through the codes of gender at the same time.
Other images show a hot young couple nude on the beach, a row of stunning, godlike, naked lifeguards on the sand and a group of hideous, fat men in suits picking girls from a menu. There are gorgeous, brightly coloured prostitutes stoning a bunch of pallid, naked hypocrites; a happy family in an upside-down house; and a client/escort scenario where both are women, but might be performing as men, who knows? There’s desire here, lots of it, but anger and indignation too.
The whole thing is a collision of art deco angles, Diego Rivera curves and socialist realist bodies pushed to ridiculous extremes, manipulated and twisted to mock gender conventions, to laugh at greedy businessmen, to undermine societal norms. All those ideas are mashed and mangled until they mean nothing at all.
And Coon’s big male hand is a message. She’s saying we’re all complicated, fluid beings, and if you don’t agree she’s going to take that big hand and slap you about until you do.