The dictionary defines penetralia as 1. the innermost parts or recesses of a place or thing and 2. the most private or secret of things. Although the definition is broader and more abstract, the sound of the word makes us think of penetration genitalia. Artists Ulrike Johannsen and Yvette Kasier Smith used similar visceral responses in the process and conceptual development of their art works for the exhibition, Penetralia, curated by Jenny Krauss.
Ulrike and Yvette, although engaged in different practices, both used similar aesthetic appeals for this exhibition that made a viewer want to touch, rub, get inside of, and physically interact with their pieces. Yvette did this with anatomical work and materials that, through their color and wet surfaces, look like aesthetisized human innards. Her pieces in the exhibition were created with resin. A dangerous and toxic material in its liquid state, but when dry hardens into a strong skin that protects whatever is underneath. The pieces in the exhibition ranged from the almost literal to the highly abstract. A piece entitled Ripe was reminiscent of splitting cells, kidneys, or ovaries. Carriage 2 took on figurative characteristics, but also an abstracted form that could be anything from dancing sperm to a deadly virus.
The intersection between Yvette’s work and Ulrike’s lie in their ability to reference objects that are used in our bodies. In her Comforter series Smith crochets fiberglass. Similarly Ulrike’s cool and clean aesthetic used luggage and furniture as objects of non-utilitarian power. The exhibited piece Vacation Relic had a lush pink interior that suggested to the viewer wonderment of a newlyweds honeymoon, or of a self indulgent trip to the spa. Another piece exhibited Paravent a box, which opened out to become a screen. Instead of reflecting back at us, the image on the screen was of a private, paravent, coy, and sensual moment that subverted notions of privacy and display. Ulrike in this piece explored the process of interactivity in her work. She transferred creative ownership from artist to viewer, allowing the artwork to be in constant flux.