Laurel Nakadate simply does not know her own power, for if she did, she'd certainly have mercy on the damned souls that populate her provocative works on display at Leslie Tonkonow Projects. Known primarily as one of the "hottest" female artists working today, Nakadate is an example of pure physical perfection-- an ideal feminine specimen-- but she turns our aged notions of feminine beauty on its head by also being sly as a fox, and naughty as a misbehaving two-year-old.
Throughout Fever Dreams at the Crystal Motel, you can almost feel bedbugs crawling up your neck as you watch the Yale-educated artist and her various cohorts laying belly-up on mattresses long ago needing disposal. In one clip, Nakadate writhes on the hardwood floor, possessed. The squalor of the cheap motel envelops you as a pitiously haggard gentleman monotonously intones for Satan to release her captive soul. "Go away evil spirits. Leave her body. Leave! Leave! She's a good girl." Good girl? Hmm. I wouldn't go that far.
Nakadate is a good girl by no means. No, here is a woman who knows what she wants, when she wants it, how she wants it, how much she wants it, and she's going to get it NOW. This reviewer loves this quality in her. Nakadate is literally the most powerful female artist out there working today. But at the same time my heart goes out to the various sad sacks she seems to gravitate to (i.e., prey on). For Nakadate is more like a lionness on the hunt for sweet game. What's terrific about the artist's body of work is the powerful role reversal. In Nakadate's world, there are no male predators following innocent young lasses into dark alleyways, for the artist herself is a far more terrifying concept than any anonymous thug.
In one of the best scenes from Little Exorcisms, Nakadate directs the camera to repeatedly zoom in on a drifter filling up at the pump. We're in some corner of Nowheresville, nary a soul around. He smiles creepily in as come-hither way as he can conjure, thereupon playing a charade with the camera. Casting his line as if he were a fisherman reeling in his catch, he giggles uncontrollably. But the joke's on him as his genetic flaws are bared for the whole world to see-- a gaping hole where his front teeth should be, with vicious fang-like overgrowth of a jaw too inbred to be able to hold this bone structure. Maybe in his next lifetime he'd be able to catch a lady like Ms. Nakadate, but it's highly doubtful. Though I believe the artist in the past has mentioned her relationships with these cast of characters are harmless, I'm not so sure. In this case, I must ask if reverse gender victimization is excusable if they don't realize their part in it. Becoming self-aware is not necessarily in the cards for each of us, and for those that do not have that ability, kid gloves may be a necessity.
In another video, a bikini-clad Nakadate dances provocatively in the desert to the strums of Bruce Springsteen. Evoking Tawny Kitaen and her legendary Whitesnake poses, the artist becomes her own video vixen-- her serpentine motions thrill, electrify and captivate. Much like a young woman experiencing the joy of her sexuality for the first time, she directly confronts the viewer with raw attraction in its most basic form. The Id of Ms. Nakadate knows no bounds, and this is a powerful concept.
In a far funnier vignette, Nakadate rides in a train car looking out the window at the barren rural landscape. Suddenly, up comes her tank top as she flashes her breasts to an audience of no one. At first it's funny, and then upon subsequent views, I found it a great study in vanity and cock tease 101. It's certainly one of the funniest tongue-in-cheek narratives of the "look at my tits" culture that plagues today's young women, who seem to only know their value from Girls Gone Wild, or reality tv porn stars.
Fever Dreams at the Crystal Motel will be on view all the way until July 24th. There's simply no excuse for missing it this summer.