Dana DeGiulio’s exhibition "Erect" is her second solo exhibition at Julius Caeser, which recently re-located to the Garfield Park neighborhood and is co-operated by the artist herself, Diego Leclery, Colby Shaft, Hans Peter Sundquist and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung. Comprised of sculpture and digital video, it’s a departure from previous work DeGiulio has shown, such as her 2009 exhibition at Carrie Secrist Gallery that featured chiefly abstract black and white, oil on canvas paintings. "Erect" marks, at times with a literal X, an interesting migration away from line to form.
The intricate enameled clay piece entitled, What Was Lodestar Now Is Feet (the Pergamon Altar), wraps around two walls of the gallery in a subtle, high gloss white sculpture on flat white gallery wall (seen above and below). A miniaturized ornamental frieze in high relief, the hand-worked pieces are presented as fragmentary remnants activating the negative space between forms. From the mottled, rippling chunks emerge the headless torsos, twisting joints and the clinging draped cloth of men and women of idealized proportions both on foot and horseback.
The Pergamon Altar, alluded to in the title, is a structure that was found in the Asia Minor city of the same name. Its’ frieze depicted an epic battle between old gods and the new Olympian gods, in a battle known as the Gigantomachy.
Classical antiquities come into play again in the three-minute digital video loop, The Cry Collapses to Form, seen above. In a posture and action evocative of the grouping of columnar female figures of Greece’s Porch of the Caryatids atop the Acropolis, a nude DeGuilio attempts the Sisyphean task of maintaining an erect posture while balancing a crushing pile of books on her head. Just as the brilliantly engineered Caryatids structurally support the roof of a temple despite their slender necks, DeGuilio’s neck is doubly strained when, unexpectedly, a thick, grayish white goop begins to splatter down the towering pile of books from an unidentified source above the camera’s frame, and she thrusts her face forward, destabilizing the stack, in order to swallow it up. Her physically challenging balancing act imbues the first half of the video with a restrained tension. DeGuilio risks all to take some of the ambiguously erotic slop in her mouth with eyes closed and lips curled into a smile. This act of performative transgression is the most direct and exhibitionist moment in the show, lending the inevitable violent collapse of the entire enterprise an exhilarating charge.
A black latex sculptural form, in the shape of an X, is affixed to the wall nearby. Its uncomfortable dissonance with the other works in the show is mitigated, by the remnant of another X lying on the floor in the center of the room. Perhaps a happy coincidence, this mirror image X, although slightly larger in scale, flatter in form, and white, was previously anchored by cord to the exterior façade of the building Julius Caesar is housed within. It was cut down by vandals, the damage can be seen in the image above, and the artist purportedly retrieved what was left of it and offered up its splayed remains at the foot of the wall entitling the work, Unequivocal, Broken Yes. The two X’s enter into an interesting dialogue that encompasses the show’s thematic exploration of monuments as markers, and how the ravages of time and the cruelties of fate can erode, de-stabilize or even erase both their content and context.
--Thea Liberty Nichols