Adrienne Outlaw reviews

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Adrienne Outlaw’s Sweet Demise
July 18, 2014
By Andrew Alexander

Summer 2014 may well be remembered as the Summer of Sugar. Kara Walker’s monumental installation A Subtlety, featuring a massive sphinxlike mammy figure crafted from white sugar opened in May at a former, soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn and quickly became the talk of the world. Nashville artist Adrienne Outlaw‘s exhibition at Atlanta’s Whitespace gallery, running through August 2, also makes use of the sweet substance. Something must be something in the air. Or rather, for Outlaw, in the food. Read More.

Adrienne Outlaw: Breaking Bread at BNA
April 3, 2014
By Joe Nolan

As the summer months come into view, many of us have travel on our minds. Whenever I go out of town I always check to see what interesting exhibits might be showing in and around my destination. However, the Metro Nashville Airport Authority’s Arts at the Airport program offers sights worth seeing that don’t even require the price of a ticket. While some of the program’s galleries are beyond security checkpoints and out of the reach of airport visitors, the arts program’s offerings always include browse-able displays that are accessible to the general public. Read More.

Review of Witch’s Brew
No. 10, Sept/Oct, 2011
Art In America
By Rebecca Dimling Cochran

Myths and fairy tales often involve sinister characters whose powers allow them to physically transform their victims or manipulate the outcome of events. Nashville-based Adrienne Outlaw sees a parallel in today’s world, where advances in biotechnology allow scientists, pharmacologists and surgeons to alter the body, mind and nature, albeit in the name of progress. In her exhibition “Witch’s Brew,” Outlaw assumes the role of mad scientist to create beautifully crafted sculptures that mix the natural and the manmade, and pose the question of whether physical beauty may perhaps conceal internal dangers. Read More.

Review of Witch’s Brew
Vol 17, No 4, 2011
World Sculpture News
By Dorothy Joiner

Ingmar Bergman compared filmmaking to drawing a red ribbon out of the unconscious.   Conjuring up emotional energy and crypted secrets, this analogy illuminates not only Bergman’s art but also that of contemporary sculptor Adrienne Outlaw. Whereas the Swede “drew” out of his unconscious narratives often opaque in significance, baffling the rational mind, Outlaw turns her ideas into objects that compel the sensibility at the same time that they taunt the understanding. Mining the natural world for materials—porcupine quills, shells, honey combs, rawhide, cicadas, among a myriad other things—she explores various realities, offering compelling metaphors of the human condition, its paradoxes and its mysteries.

Imitating the fecundity of nature, Outlaw displays a stunning variety of breast-like forms from her Fecund Series, each distinctive in shape and in material: one in crimson velvet, another in fur, yet another bearing a “skin” of crocheted yarn, and on and on. Arranged in pleasing patterns across several walls, they each cast both a strong and a weaker shadow, as though suggesting one meaning undercut by another. Gazing inside the “nipple” of each “breast” the viewer experiences a frisson born of the unexpected.  Activated by hidden sources, engaging videos from contemporary biophysics animate many of the works, disclosing intricacies of the natural world usually hidden from sight: multi-colored blood vessels in a mouse’s pancreas or cell division in yeast, for example.

Some of the “breasts” reveal miniature mirrors which reflect the viewer’s own eye, suggesting a tantalizing glimpse into the psyche. Others display intriguing Lilliputian sculptures “incubated” like a fetus within the mother. Crafted from a gamut of things –sugar crystals, cicada shells, Kenyan nuts, beads, horse chestnuts, even clippings from human fingernails—these little creations testify for the most part to a secure, nurturing environment. Some less successful configurations nonetheless reveal the danger resulting from a disruption –perhaps man’s intervention–in nature’s processes.

Other works in the exhibition embody telling metaphors of nature’s duality. Temptation (2003), a fur-trimmed glove, normally an accepted source of protection and comfort, hides inside a plethora of minatory straight pins. Force (2003) is a pillow whose invitingly soft surface is marked by a cross made of treble hooks, whose dangerous edges bely the notion of ease inherent to a pillow. Like an exotic flower, Lure (2002) has lustrous “petals” surrounding a dark center, but these are porcupine quills—ouch! A Baudelairian fleur du mal.  And Snare (2003), a curiously beautiful configuration somewhat like an oversize, wiggling caterpillar, shows similar quills, this time puncturing a diaphanous silk skin.

Especially notable is Queen (2005), a glass milking jug, draped in a delicate pink crocheted cover. Peering inside the narrow neck reveals a mirror and several vials of honey, the product of the queen bee’s industrious colony. Joining the viscous sweetener with the jug for milk brings to mind the Biblical “land flowing with milk and honey.” Undercutting this allusion to an Edenesque existence, however, is the crocheted pattern of the cover, that of mitochondria.  Enclosing each cell, this membrane is associated not only with converting energy into the cell’s food but is also an agent in the aging process, instrumental in a cell’s birth as well as its death. One is reminded of Poussin’s 17th-century painting Et in Arcadia Ego, in which shepherds come upon a tomb, startling them with the realization of death’s presence even in Arcady.

Perhaps the most intriguing of Outlaw’s works continues her exploration of the quizzical aspects of the human condition, but with a ludic undercurrent. How to Mistake Your_____ for a ______ (2011), is a kind of altar covered in red velvet with two steps on either side. Participants kneel, don a headdress—one of woven rawhide, the other fashioned from a blowfish– and peer into a tiny mirror, the process reminiscent of an eye exam. But here participants see their own eyes but the face of the other. The work offers not only the uncustomary opportunity “to see yourself as others see you,” but also to play with almost limitless possibilities, such as, his lips, my eyes; his nose, my lips. A telling detail: the kneelers are made of memory foam, suggesting that each person leaves an imprint no matter how scrambled the images.

Joining both nature’s bounty and its detritus to cutting–edge advances in biophysics, Outlaw fashions unwonted configurations that beguile even as they tease the mind. At the same time that it explores mysteries both of the psyche and of science, however, her work adumbrates haunting questions about the consequences of human meddling with nature. Finally, the exhibit’s title Witch’s Brew reflects the richly feminine sensitivity of the work, its catholic sympathies –in the etymological sense—toward ambient realities, both natural and scientific.

Take a peek inside Adrienne Outlaw’s glory holes,Artist cooks up a heady concoction with Witch’s Brew”
May 2011
Creative Loafing
By Felicia Feaster

If Larry Flynt decided to turn away from T&A and try his hand at art making, it might look something like the lascivious and lark-filled work of Nashville artist Adrienne Outlaw. Like the climactic scene in Roman Polanski’s horror film Repulsion, in which a wall comes alive with groping, reaching hands, Outlaw’s solo show Witch’s Brew has turned the walls at Whitespace Gallery into a riot of randy, outlandish protuberances. The tubers, velveteen phalluses, breast- and snake-like structures are often surrounded by fur or encrusted with beads, and command attention with their sticky-outy-ness. Read More.

Mad Science Meets Sculpture in Adrienne Outlaw’s Witch’s Brew
May 18, 2011
By Laura Chance

Nashville-based artist Adrienne Outlaw isn’t one to coddle her audience or sugarcoat the inspiration for her work. At her artist’s talk at Whitespace Gallery this past Saturday, she spoke directly about the biotechnological issues that inspire her work and the complicated ethical problems raised by rapidly developing technology. Her fuzzy, flesh-colored, breast-shaped sculptures are straight out of an Asimov novel, like creatures from another planet warning us of the dangers of a dependence on pharmaceuticals and the takeover of artificial intelligence. Read More.