DATEAGLE ART’s new show ‘Dark Air’ discusses gender through myth

DATEAGLE ART presents their new show Dark Air, a solo exhibition by Gray Wielebinski. By disrupting and distorting classical mythologies, it raises probing questions around gender and identity.

Dark Air will take place at SEAGER Gallery in Deptford. It will run for three weeks only (12th July – 2nd August 2019). It is guest curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell of DATEAGLE ART. The show forms part of the artist’s ongoing exploration of the myth-making that underpins gender, identity and ritual, through the the lenses of Akkadian mythology, sporting ceremonies and reimagined iconographies.

Interestingly, I have previously noted the use and appropriation of myths by Alexi Marshall. The exhibition at DATEAGLE, which explores sexuality under a similar light, is centred on an installation piece created by of one of Marshall’s fellow alumni from the Slade School of Fine Art.

In this exhibition, Wielebinski has produced a soft sculpture that stitches together two gatekeepers of mythological lore – the Sphinx and Scorpion. The malleable concoctions results into a grotesque guardian in which genders and myths collide.

Gray Wielebinski, Use Violence to Stop Violence, 2018, Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kaitak Gallery Installation shots

The two mythological personae have a particular resonance here. The Sphinx, majestic and elegant but contemporaneously malign and merciless, lead the king Oedipus to ruin. The Scorpion, small and insidious, kills with just a drop of venom from his tail, and stealthily took over the previously invincible Orion.

Both figures share a duality of meaning; both contruct their identity by depriving others of theirs one. The two, moreover, live in the arid desert: a blank landscape where definitions are easily lost. Even more so in Wielebinski’s constructions, balanced between a soft elegance and a gruesome monstrosity. Body and identity are here displayed as inescapably fragmentary. They are in a constant process of making, destabilizing and re-making. This leaves no space for academic strict binaries, and celebrates, rather, a multiplicity of open-ended possibilities.

In Hook, red, lucid latex, often associated with femininity and, more specifically, with feminine stereotypes such as the femme fatale, is here combined with a bestial claw. To make the image even more disturbing, but thereby more open to interpretation and projection, this adult archetype is juxtaposed by a soft, toy-like stuffed face, most readily connected to the world of children.Gray Wielebinski, Hook, 2018 , Mixed media soft sculpture (leather, fur, jersey, crocodile hand) 2.5 x 3

This is not the first time that Wielebinski engages with soft sculpture. Previously the artist indeed conjoined together different pieces of dysfunctional, spongy shapes. These defy ancient categories and categorization on multiple levels– from their semi-anthropomorphic, semi-mechanic shape; to their un-gendered identity and  unconventional position and material.

Wielebinski also refuses personal gender binaries. This is reflected in their oeuvre, which spans across various mediums to explore themes ranging from spectacle, ceremony and national identity, to gender, race and the socialised body.

An essay written by Cairo Clarke will accompany the exhibition. A series of events will be also part of it, including:

– Friday 19th July at 20:00 pm: Screening & Conversation with the artist and OOF Magazine – a biannual print magazine centred on the intersection between football and art, published by Eddy Frankel (Time Out’s Visual Arts Editor), Justin and Jennie Hammond (co-director of J Hammond Projects, and founder of the Catlin Art Prize)

– Saturday 27th July at 12:00 pm: Off-site Pottery Workshop at Proudick (43 Madron Street, London, SE17 2LE), offering the opportunity to respond to the exhibition creatively and tactically by creating a mythological figure. Reservation needed.

– Friday 2nd August at 20:00 pm: Panel Discussion with the artist and Ashleigh Kane, Dazed’s Arts & Culture Editor


Gray Wielebinski, Dark Air

SEAGER Gallery, Distillery Tower, 2 Mill Lane, London, SE8 4HP, (Deptford) by DATEAGLE art

12th July – 2nd August 2019; opening night: Friday 12th July, 6-9pm

About Irene Machetti

Whenever there is an exhibition opening, expect to find me there, with a glass of wine in one hand, and my phone on the other, to take pictures and record my emotions. The rest of my life is spent studying art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and, especially, baking cakes and lasagne for my loved ones.