For her second solo exhibition with Almine Rech, Madelynn Green has created a body of spirited paintings and drawings that unveil the ironies of self-fashioning, or “dolling up”. The paintings consider the notion of spectacle from the lenses of subject versus spectator, individual versus collective, and styled versus stylist. Dolls is a vivid departure from Madelynn Green’s 2021 show Birth of a Star at Almine Rech Paris and her 2020 show Heartland at Taymour Grahne Projects, which respectively explored stardom and her hometown. While these shows centred on the aesthetics of celebrity, the celestial, and the American Midwest, Dolls considers aesthetics more literally by examining beauty through the lenses of performance and self-fashioning.
Dolls inhabit many forms. They can be tiny human figures meant for children or elegant mannequins draped in jewellery. To “doll” or “doll-up” is also a verb, and dolls can come to life: a beautiful woman is often colloquially called a doll. What does it mean to get “dolled up?” It, of course, depends on the occasion. The subjects in Dolls are not adorned in funerary black. They are primping to go out – out out. They strive to position themselves as beautiful under public scrutiny, beautiful even among a crowd of dolls. The paintings forge a narrative that begins with wigs on eerie mannequins, intensifies with anxious layers of makeup, climaxes with ebullient crowds, and concludes a lively night with a lone foray home.
In Female Figures, lifelike mannequins sport flawless wigs and melancholy expressions. They are either offended that they are on clearance, or their pouts hint at something deeper, and perhaps darker. These unsettling plastic “dolls”; are mere canvases of women. Despite the fraudulence of their humanity, they are considered archetypes of beauty. The titular work, a multi-part painting installation called Dolls, is peppered with Black hair products and beauty tools like hair gel, moisturising lotion, eyelash curlers, and tweezers. The metal tools have a clinical look despite performing “surgeries” far more aesthetic than medical, pointing to the clinical precision with which women are expected to style themselves for public consumption.