"Comforter" at SFAQ [Project] Space (Artforum)

Archived on Artforum.com

This group show curated by Petra Collins, explicitly organized around the theme of domestic transience, is perfectly sited in a new, raw project space. Juxtaposed with crude fiberboard floors, the work recalls first attempts at personalizing an adolescent bedroom. A large, white, fleece cotton sheet by Collins, bordered with cute stickers and filled with the text of letters written to the artist, I Hope This Helps You Sleep at Night 2, 2015, hangs loosely like a curtain next to another screen-printed sheet. Nearby, large C-prints by Nguan of young schoolgirls in uniform and unaccompanied children, both untitled and from the 2012 series “How Loneliness Goes,” read simultaneously as vernacular family portraits and anonymous street photography.

But the sweetly mournful, teen-girl-Tumblr aesthetic of the show offers only a thin candy coating over vigorous, challenging feminist messages that have a kinship with the diaristic work of Tracey Emin. The colorful hand-drawn wallpaper on which Collins and Claire Milbrath collaborated,Was Never Okay, 2015, papering one wall of the space, is littered with an iconography of interrupted childhood, including teddy bears, makeup, sad emoticons, and drawings of slim-hipped girls in their underwear. Finally, there’s a sculpture of pill bottles by Collins titled Bandaid For My Life, 2015—which contain wilted flowers, suggesting both neglect and trauma—and a red, raw-edged cloth on the floor with a drawn female nude serving as almost a literal doormat. The vision in “Comforter,” then, is one of a domesticity that is cozy at only the most superficial of levels, obstructing any misplaced nostalgia for the safety of home.