Margaret Harrison on Artforum.com
Margaret Harrison’s latest exhibition is an anachronistic experience. Walk into the gallery’s back room and peek at the septuagenarian British feminist artist’s naughty lithographs, displayed in suggestively half-open drawers. There are two from 1971, the year Harrison’s first-ever gallery exhibition was shut down by the London police—a drawing of a corseted but otherwise nude Hugh Hefner as one of his own bunnies was apparently just too much. The lithographs’ preoccupations are braless merry widows, scarlet nipples, and food: An engorged lemon being squeezed by a pinup spurts glistening droplets in Take One Lemon, 1971, while in Good Enough To Eat, 1971, a fleshy bombshell stands in for the meat in a British rail sandwich, her upturned palms submissively curled atop a slice of a hard-boiled egg. »
These are startling pictures. They are rendered with the skill of a young artist trained in painting and drawing in 1960s London, as two sensational acrylics of spineless sea urchins on canvas, Echinodermata I and II, from 1966 attest. There is malice in Beautiful Ugly Telephone, 2004, which gets at the banal entrapment of corporate life. The work is part of a series called “Beautiful Ugly Violence,” which presents paintings of ordinary objects—a kettle, scissors—that have been used as weapons against women. In the bruise-colored Marilyn Is Dead! (blue-grey), 1994, the icon of female sexuality evokes a Victorian memento mori picture of a dead child, her signature snub nose and full lips recalling the girl’s life cut short.