-- A Cyberspace Review Of The Arts

Volume 21.05
December 8, 2014

(Title image removed due to copyright restrictions imposed by owner of the photograph of which it was a detail.)

Greer Lankton at Participant

Wikipedia sums it up: 'Greer Lankton (1958, Flint, MI — November 18, 1996, Chicago, IL) was a prolific American artist known for creating lifelike, sewn dolls that were often modeled on friends and celebrities and posed in elaborate theatrical settings. She was a key figure in the East Village art scene of the 1980s in New York.' Eighteen years after her death, she is having a show at Participant, at 253 East Houston Street in New York.

The most important thing I could say to you about this show would be something that would get you down there to look at it. (It will be up until December 21, so there is still time!) If I say 'dolls' or 'Expressionism' or 'transgender' or 'Egon Schiele' or even 'horror' -- some of the work is well and truly horrific -- I will not be conveying much. Many of these categories have been flogged pretty hard in recent years. Greer Lankton was well ahead of the current wave.

If you can't get to Participant, you're mostly out of luck -- the significant part of the show (to me) is mainly sculpture, that is, the dolls and figures she made -- but you can get some idea of it looking at the pictures I provide here and on the sites linked to below. These sites also contain analyses and memoirs for those who like that sort of thing. This work particularly reminded me that, just as the poetry in poetry is the part you can't translate, so the art in art is the part you can't analyze or define. The photographs here are basically random snapshots and are by no means a definitive record of the whole show; they are what someone took with a medium camera one afternoon as he walked through the exhibition. They are mostly as taken, not edited, straightened out, hyped.

In honor of the old Downtown aesthetic, I have taken care not to title them or describe their contents, obvious and not so obvious. Some of this work comes from a sort of central collection currently resident at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh; some was drafted recently from local people. The offical lender for the show is the Greer Lankton Archives Museum (G.L.A.M.)

The show is as well (although this is not explicit) a sort of memorial to that bygone age, the 'Downtown Scene' of the 1980s, which had a lot to do with the level of pre-gentrification rent in what is now the ever-expanding, ever up-and-coming real estate domains of Soho and the East Village. You can get a sense of what life was like then from some of the work, some of the memorabilia. But the past is not only another country, it's another planet. It is true that a few extraterrestrials remain in the area, not quite yet all scourged out, but it's significant the ultimate repository of Ms Lankton's work is an 'alternative space' in Pittsburgh.

This is your chance to see it here and now.

Some URLs:

Wikipedia article:

2007 life & work article:

A memoir:

Participant curator Lia Gangitano's account:

Particpant press release:

GL archives museum (on Facebook):

Collection of photos:

Review of present show:

video:Interview at Whitney Biennial, 1995:

video: From the Mattress Factory:

video: Ad for 2011 Hollywood show:

GL Times obit http:

Mattress Factory:

Participant, Inc:

Pictures of the Exhibition


Many of the images below include graphic, explicit depictions of sexual body parts, situations, and activities. Some include depictions of surgical operations. And there is some overlap between these two sets. If you find such material disturbing or offensive, don't look at it.

(Note: several images of portrait photographs had to be removed due to strict copyright restrictions placed on even low-resolution reproduction of the photographs in the show. Fans of copyright might want to reflect on the likely effect, if any, of this restriction.)

depicted work by Greer Lankton,
photographs and text by Gordon Fitch, 2014.



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December 8, 2014