An Enigmatic Body of Work
by Elizabeth Michelman
In addition to its well-publicized recent acquisitions a stupendous Veronese Venus and the medieval arsenal of the Higgins Armory Museum the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) has also long cultivated a commitment to collecting portraiture. To bring this preoccupation up to date, Curator of Contemporary Art Susan Stoops has marshaled a decade-and-a-half of minimalist and conceptual works in the current exhibition, most of them recently collected by WAM, to challenge our preconceptions of personhood.
“You Are Here” offers 12 spare and reserved sculptural and photo- graphic-based works and one painting as tools for reconsidering how we perceive bodily limits and distinguish identity. The artists’ methods include abstraction and metaphorical and concrete thinking, but rarely pure depiction. Instead they point to substitutions for the body, indicating its boundaries and mourning its traces. Even without faces or figures, the works deliver a charge and sometimes a shiver.
In three tiny, black-and-white photographs by Milagros de la Torre (“The Lost Steps”), evidence of a human subject is shadowy at best. But for good reason: these otherwise disparate images of a skirt, a crowbar and a mysteriously wrapped revolver all “define a person” in the most ultimate way. The appropriated images are demonstrative evidence of murder cases from court archives in Lima, dating from the violent period of de la Torre’s childhood; the artist is the daughter of the former chief of police of Peru’s capital city.