Claire Pentecost

The New York Times


What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries in August and Early September

Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Check out Claire Pentecost’s monstrous photographs in Brooklyn. 

August 30, 2023

by John Vincler

Claire Pentecost’s recent photographs are monstrous. As in “Afterparty” (2022-23), they feature mostly human-animal hybrids: A woman in a blonde wig who is sheathed in a black ensemble lies atop another figure, with white-gloved hands who is wearing a red-and-white striped silk shirt but has the head of a deer. Close looking reveals that the “woman” in black has hooves instead of hands at the end of her emaciated arms. Is this a disheveled couple in a passionate embrace or a pair of victims clinging to each other in terror?

The 21 playful, if macabre, photos in the exhibition (all from 2022 and 2023) show characters composed of taxidermy, doll parts, clothes and mannequins. They sometimes reoccur, creating the feeling that one is viewing the pages of some exploded storybook without a logical sequence. Their dingy white-walled spaces are dramatically lit so that the shadows themselves become characters. A drawing of a wooden tall ship directly on the wall becomes a ghostly trace of its subsequent erasure in another. Many of the photographed scenes include paintings, like “Pioneer Cemetery,” which juxtaposes a painted self-portrait of the artist on the wall beside a headless mannequin in a white dress holding the head of a bison. Two feature paintings by the artist’s mother.

The recombinant beings recall the stop-motion puppetry of the Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, and has affinities with Greer Lankton, Leonora Carrington and the painter Paula Rego’s use of puppets as models. This shadowy doll-play is Barbie’s antithesis.