On entering Karsten Schubert London’s new exhibition The Covering: Cathie Pilkington, Pierre Molinier and Morton Bartlett, visitors to Room 2 are greeted by a rare example of American outsider artist Morton Bartlett’s plaster dolls. Dressed in a garment made by sculptor Cathie Pilkington, she forms a mediating presence between the staged erotic photographs of Pierre Molinier and Pilkington’s immersive site-specific installation.
Either side of the Morton Bartlett (1909–92), are five photographs from Pierre Molinier’s (1900–76) celebrated series Cent photographies érotiques. These self-portraits show the artist in staged fetish ensembles, often posed with mannequin parts and S&M paraphernalia. The artist’s face is frequently covered by a doll’s mask, adding to the disquieting sense of the uncanny in his work.
Completely occupying the next room of this Soho townhouse, Cathie Pilkington’s installation uses a diverse array of fabrics, materials, mirrors and studio furniture to dress the space, literally concealing figures and objects. Pilkington’s intricately sculpted and painted Pieta 2 forms the centrepiece and below it two largescale semi-nude feminine figures sit on platforms, their faces and bodies partially obscured by blankets. Included are new sculptures, fabric pieces and prints by Cathie Pilkington made for the exhibition.
At once referencing an artist’s studio, religious imagery and the historical depiction of women’s bodies, Cathie Pilkington’s installation creates an ambivalent dialogue with the work of Molinier, Bartlett and other artists who have come before her, provoking questions about the lines between art, craft, and ritual. In titling her installation The Covering, Pilkington refers to Harold Bloom’s image of ‘the covering cherub’: an obstructing figure that blocks the artist’s attempt to create a self-contained identity by dumping before her the indispensable and problematic baggage of art history.
Cathie Pilkington is an artist whose work engages passionately and critically with the canonical history of figurative sculpture. Crossing borders of traditional, modern and contemporary idioms, her work combines intensively modelled and painted sculptures within immersive installations comprising a diverse array of props, materials and studio furniture. Her site responsive installations are balanced ambivalently between chaos and precision and have been described as a kind of art historical fly-tipping.
Pierre Molinier was deemed ‘the magician of erotic art’ by André Breton and self-styled himself as a depraved figure without morals. His erotic play with identity and ingenious use of staging and photomontage has influenced artists such as Cindy Sherman and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Morton Bartlett sculpted and clothed plaster dolls for staged photography, a private pursuit that was only rediscovered after his death. Karsten Schubert London is grateful to the David Roberts Collection for loaning this work for The Covering.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue featuring a new essay by Neil Walton.
Cathie Pilkington, Pierre Molinier and Morton Bartlett
14 February–10 April
44 Lexington Street (second floor)
London W1F 0LW