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Whitehot Recommends: Ryan Wilde's Venus Su Misura at Harper's Gallery

Ryan Wilde, Venus Su Misura, 2019. Oil on canvas, 36 x 72 in. Courtesy of Harper's Gallery.

Ryan WildeVenus Su Misura

Harper's Gallery

June 10 through July 10, 2021

By WM, June 2021 

From the press release:  

Harper’s is pleased to present Venus Su Misura, a solo exhibition of works by Brooklyn-based artist Ryan Wilde. The exhibition will feature a new series of paintings alongside Wilde’s soft sculptures of anthropomorphized busts and appendages. Harper’s Chelsea is open to the public from 10am to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday. 

…for the woman there is, from the start, a conflict between her autonomous existence and her “being other”; she is taught that to please, she must try to please, must make herself object; she must therefore renounce her autonomy.  She is treated like a living doll, and freedom is denied to her…

...she has to be “pretty as a picture;” she tries to resemble an image, she disguises herself... 

— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

In her sculptural work and paintings, Wilde brings perspective to the way identities are formed from the consumption of imagery and visual cues, particularly for women, whose existence is considered in relation to the “other.” In order to claim agency, a woman must harness the faculties of beauty, intelligence, or wealth to exert power, often by way of carefully crafting her appearance—a paradoxical dilemma, as the outward expressions of women at any stage may be fetishized and objectified by the male gaze. 

By repurposing the technical skills acquired throughout her career as a milliner, Wilde’s sculptural works provoke dialogue on the theatricality of gender. Each sculpture exists as parts of the wardrobe for the role of “woman.” The sculptures Venus of Goodman and Madame Tataz (Green) combine to become a costume for a seductress in the painting Mrs. Tataz Goodman, while Dress Up Shoes and Bobby Socks pairs with Kid Sister as a costume for a young girl who has just begun associating with the tropes of “woman.” In Kid Sister Dreaming, she can be seen observing a component of Ideal Kinkster, another such costume that will tether her sense of self to the various disguises she must don to become “pretty as a picture.”  

Wilde’s characters, cobbled together from various sculptural components, parasitically consume their host and expose a vulnerability in their hypersexualized or infantilized forms. Wilde immerses the viewer in a world where the expectation to perform as a woman crosses into absurdity and dysfunction. The figures are faceless, with the exception of implied features and lips that often appear in the place of areolas or eyes, and their hands are tasseled sex toys or pinwheels and lollipops. In this world, a woman’s disguise is indistinguishable from herself, and her autonomy is lost in the fantasy of the role. 

Venus Su Misura draws its name from a playful combination: Venus, the Roman goddess of beauty; and su misura, an Italian phrase meaning “tailor-made.” Venus Su Misura also refers to both a sculpture and a painting in Wilde’s debut exhibition with the gallery. The painting is based on Titian’s Venus of Urbino, housed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where Wilde lived and studied during her undergraduate years. Wilde’s Venus rests on a tasseled pink arm that exists also as a freestanding sculpture titled Kink Attachment. In the background, her public persona—an iteration of Dowry Daisy—awaits atop a female dress form. She is alone and in repose, yet she remains an amalgamation of her various costumes as if to say that even in solitude, her identity is entirely tailor-made. WM



Whitehot writes about the best art in the world - founded by artist Noah Becker in 2005. 


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