Hair as Material: “Tease” at ATHICA


Tease, the current exhibition at ATHICA (Athens Institute for Contemporary Art) in Athens, GA features hair as “muse and material” per the exhibition’s subtitle. On view are works by nine artists, some of whom take hair as subject matter in documentary, collage, or drawing. To my mind, the works that involved hair as medium were the more provocative, evoking a bodily connection that varied from the abstracted and decorative to the abject.


Zipporah Thompson used hair as one of many textured materials, like string and textiles, that were arranged to hang like so many ponytails against a mint green-painted wall (top photo). The mix of materials called for an examination of texture that was sensuous and detailed, and suggested an anthropologist’s orderly display. Hair became a stand-in for fabric in Lilly Smith’s two-tone column dress, which looped hair horizontally in a way that played up its original nature, not becoming a woven textile but falling open and in the process subverting the function of clothing as a covering of nudity (pictured above).

IMG_4598Ari Richter’s work is both more abject and more playful. His large installation featured a string a dreaded hair that spelled out “remainder” in looping cursive, while under it his Dust Buddies gathered. The dust buddies are made from animal tchochkes that Richter then covers with animal hair, making them amorphously more and yet less distinguishable as animals. Next to this installation is Wolfdong (not pictured), an oversized penis carefully implanted with thousands of tiny dog hairs that stick straight out, with all the disquieting and Surreal attention to detail of a Robert Gober sculpture. I had the chance to hear the artist speak about his work, and he sources his materials from himself, his friends, family, and their pets. The personal connection to the hair source reminds how hair is strangely a part of our body, yet one that we willingly detach from ourselves.

On view at ATHICA through May 3, 2015.

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