Rachel Lachowicz. Lay Back and Enjoy It

21 Jan — 1 Apr 2017 at the Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Santa Monica, United States

28 JANUARY 2017
Rachel Lachowicz, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Rachel Lachowicz, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Shoshana Wayne Gallery

Lay Back and Enjoy It is both the title of the exhibition and of the large-scale installation modeled after three prominent structures from the 1973 Clint Eastwood film, High Plains Drifter. The artist has completely covered two structures - the Sheriff’s Station and the Church - in red lipstick to represent different pillars of historical patriarchal power: Law and Order, Religion, Markets and Domesticity. At just under full-scale, viewers are completely immersed in the seductive aesthetics of red lipstick, visually, physically and olfactory, while viewing their own reflection in the red mirrored windows of the buildings.

This new work is a revisitation for Lachowicz, who in 1996 created a series of video-stills from the film that depict the town after it was painted red. Initially struck by the film’s two rape scenes, and the classic Hollywood trope of submissive female characters, Lachowicz sought to address the archetypal notion of architecture as being historically masculine. Her use of translation and appropriation reaches new levels of scale with this work, offering a “feminine” covering which repurposes and repositions the buildings. Lay Back and Enjoy It places the structures within a context that critiques social constructions of the contemporary, by combining a western town with high modernism and minimalism.

In the Eastwood film, the town painted red acts as a metaphor for the changing psyche of its inhabitants and even the identity of the town itself. Lachowicz offers a similar psychic change where our historical institutional memory can progress to an unspecified place where women have greater agency. Lipstick and cosmetics are not inherently gendered, but they have been culturally coded as feminine. The application of lipstick offers us a potentially revealing and celebratory moment by re-contextualizing the structures to have a feminine identity. To those who fear the empowered feminine, the work suggests that they perhaps should “Lay Back and Enjoy It”.

Lachowicz has exhibited extensively both in the United States and internationally. Her work will be included in three forthcoming exhibitions: “No Place Like Home” at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (2017), “Some Aesthetic Decisions: A Centenary Celebration of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain,” at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2017), and “Forms of Identity: Women Artists in the 90s” at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California (2017). She has exhibited at the Los Angeles County Musuem of Art (2014), the Denver Art Museum (2009), the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts (2008), the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece (2006), the ICA in London (2005), the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York (2005), the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA (2003), the New Museum in New York (1999), the Vorarlberger Kunstverein, Brenenz, Austria (1995), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1994), and the Venice Bienanale (1993). Lachowicz was the recipient of the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (2003) and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (1995). She is the Chair of the Art Department at Claremont Graduate University. She lives and works in Santa Monica, CA.