Dolls and action figures are normally associated with play, but their appeal to children is the ability to enact fantastical scenarios by proxy. Artists are able to do the same and in this group exhibition the works all refer to society’s obsession with the perfect body and how this is a hollow construct.
The opening room is painted a deep red – a colour associated with both pornography and blood. The decor fits in perfectly with the highly sexualised and macabre works on display. Morton Bartlett’s half life-size doll greets visitors like an oversized Barbie. Yet on closer inspection she is not ageing well with her skin flaking off, bursting the illusion of plastic perfection.
One wall of this first room is covered with Cindy Sherman’s Sex Pictures, which display dolls adorned with fake genitalia and muscles. It highlights the current trend of people who feel their own bodies to be inadequate and in need of enhancement, and how this can often lead to disfigured and grotesque outcomes.
Sherman’s work continues into the next room with her Broken Dolls series of photographs. These black and white images are even more bizarre and disturbing than the previous series, with Frankenstein-like creations on display. The use of black and white is in line with how films and television programmes often switch to monochrome in ultra violent scenes to prevent the audience being overly shocked.
This is a dark and surreal exhibition that takes a critical eye to the societal norm of cosmetic surgery and highlights its shortcomings.
The Vivisector is on display at Sprüth Magers, 7A Grafton St, W1S 4EJ until 26 January. Entrance is free.