Back in March, just before lockdown, you may have caught American artist Trulee Hall raising the roof at the Zabludowicz with her sold-out operatic performance.
And now she’s back with something a little less fleeting. In fact, this show, which launches on 8th October, is the Kentish Town artspace’s annual commission and runs right through to 14th March 2021 – second lockdown permitting, of course.
It’s also Hall’s first ever UK exhibition. Debuting her newly commissioned project alongside pieces from the Collection and a number of videos, paintings and sculptures, the show presents and explores work made over the past two years. It’s mostly informed by her childhood growing up in the Southern state of Georgia, her current home of LA, and a background working on film sets, in artist studios and as a tech for major theme parks.
The gallery’s singular spaces – it’s worth saying again that it really is quite like no other in the capital, let alone north London – are to be transformed by a series of Hall’s self-contained, elaborate vignettes. The viewer moves through discordant scenes, each presenting a tangled meta-narrative.
And now a head’s up: it’s one for grown-ups, only. At the heart of Hall’s practice is a humorous, and unabashed ‘erotic grotesque’: it is, she says, “a fun-house panopticon of cyclical looking” where glory holes, peeping toms, nightmare monsters and sexy bodies jostle for attention. My oh my.
Not one to pass judgement or be constrained by binaries, Hall prods the oppositions of real and fake, gender and sexuality, object and subject, dominant and submissive, good and bad, silly and serious. Think multi-layered wobbly movie-set backdrops, requiring you to assimilate and synthesise a unique experience.
Confused? Don’t be: as usual with the boundary-pushing shows at this gallery, there’s no need to overthink it if that’s not your bag. It’s best simply to absorb the diverse, cutting-edge mash-up of installations, whether they be video, sculpture, paintings or composed soundtracks.
Within these dense, interactive environments the visitor can cautiously step around, peep through, and settle in, allowing you to bring whatever perspective you wish. After all, that’s all art is, right?
You might want to look out, however, for the odd reappearing trope – like, for example, stylised female nudes with mouths agape, rendered in gold and primary colours; bodies of many ages, genders and sizes relishing their physicality; and a fair few phallic serpents and corncobs.
At the centre of it all? Why none other than Tongues Duel the Corn Whores, An Opera, the commission we mentioned at the start that began as a performance of the same name earlier this year. An exploration of ritual and sexuality, it weaves together Hall’s original score, libretto and choreography with an elaborate set, costumes, and props, rendered in her often used trifecta of CGI, clay animation and live footage.
The opera revolves around two female archetypes: the conservative and spiritual ‘Madonna’ and the hedonistic and provocative ‘Whore’. As usual in Hall’s work, live footage begets CGI, begets claymation, begets live footage – there is no hierarchy of reality or rendering.
The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of live and online events, and the launch of Hall’s first monograph publication. An online exhibition of artwork produced by women artists during the pandemic will be for sale online from 26th November to 25th December 2020. A special fundraising event will take place on 26th November, including talks by the project’s co-curator Frances Borzello and psychotherapist and writer Susie Orbach.
Main photo credit: Trulee Hall, Tongues Duel the Corn Whores, An Opera, 2020, exhibition view at Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2020. Photo: Tim Bowditch
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