Shannon Egan, Gettysburg College
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When she dances, acts, sculpts, sews or films, artist Melissa Ichiuji presents the human figure in political and personal terms, examining its various states of desire or distortion. This exhibition In the Flesh presents three discrete recent bodies of Ichiuji’s work: a series of busts of political figures from the 2012 election season entitled Fair Game, a trio of life-sized sculptures of female bodies, and lastly, Everything to Lose, a film and corresponding photographs of the artist donning an elaborately sculpted costume. Despite seeming differences in medium and subject in this exhibition, Ichiuji works with similar materials and artistic practices in each. She sculpts with fabric and pantyhose and does not hide raw, purposefully crude stitches and seams. Because the pantyhose stands in for flesh; bits of thread under the surfaces look like veins, and gestures seem animated, Ichiuji’s heads and bodies are paradoxically naturalistic and doll-like. “My background as a dancer and an actor,” Ichiuji explains, “informs the physicality of my figures.” Mimeticism, or the evocation of the “real” body, in Ichiuji’s work is mesmerizingly fraught. One sees abstraction and strange realism at once. Her political portraits are uncannily accurate; life-size sculptures approximate the presence of a live figure, and her own body in performance and film hypnotically and paradoxically is obscured and revealed. The perceived fantasy implicit in her work chafes against the viewer’s detection of the “real.” This friction can be seen in how Ichiuji’s real body—her hand, her upper back, her own curves and flesh—is perceptible through the doll-like costume she wears in Everything to Lose. Likewise, from the Fair Game series, one can recognize Newt Gingrich’s characteristic smile through a tangle of women’s underwear, and the distorted figures in her larger-scaled sculptures appear on the brink of movement. [excerpt]
Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College
Melissa Ichiuji, sculpture, In the Flesh, human figure
Egan, Shannon, "Melissa Ichiuji: In the Flesh" (2013). Schmucker Art Catalogs. 12.