Gallery Hopping: Death and Flowers Grow in ‘The Garden’ at P.P.O.W.

The fake flowers and pink plastic toys hide something more unsettling.

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Portia Munson Functional Women (2016). Photo: courtesy of P.P.O.W.
Portia Munson Her Coffin (2016). Photo: courtesy of P.P.O.W.
Portia Munson Wig (2005). Photo: courtesy of P.P.O.W.
Portia Munson Game Farm Reliquary (2012). Photo: courtesy of P.P.O.W.
Portia MunsonThe Garden (1996). Photo: courtesy of P.P.O.W.
Portia Munson Anemone Bird (2016). Photo: courtesy of P.P.O.W.

Portia Munson’s latest solo show, “The Garden,” at New York’s P.P.O.W., is a continuation of her exploration of femininity, consumerism, and mortality. According to the gallery, the exhibition features works that are “a commentary on the fleeting nature of time, the fragility of life, the representation of women, and our cultural obsession with disposable objects.”

The works in this exhibition date from the 1990s to her most recent output, including Functional Women, one of her most prominent pieces, which is at once humorous and sinister. The work is an assembly of tchotchkes that depict women, mermaids, breasts, high heel shoes, and other feminine signifiers. The overall shape of the assemblage is that of a women’s torso, notably headless, in a large skirt.

Elsewhere, Her Coffin consists of a myriad of pink plastic toys and objects trapped in a glass prism, equal parts whimsical for its use of toys and sinister for its implications of a coffin. The paintings that surround the front room depict various objects out of context, painted on plain colored backgrounds and depicting objects such as a pink wig, a deflated sex doll, and ceramic figurines of women and children.

Consisting of animal bones shoved into the cavities of a Tudor-style dollhouse, Game Farm Reliquary more directly references the dichotomy of feminine consumer objects and death. The photographs on the wall surrounding the dollhouse depict dead birds surrounded by blooming flowers.

Nowhere is the feeling of a dark undercurrent more pronounced than in the large installation The Garden. A tent of floral dresses and fabrics dims the room, while inside sits an overgrowth of fake flowers, stuffed animals, and floral bedding. A duet of out-of-tune music boxes, combined with a smell reminiscent of your grandmother’s attic, repel you from the installation, while the sheer overwhelming amount of floral and feminine detail pulls you back in. Munson presents us with the duality of fertility and death, nestling us in-between fake flowers and animal bones.

“The Garden” is on view at P.P.O.W., 535 West 22nd Street, 3rd Floor, January 12 – February 11, 2017.


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