That Girl 

Following Rod Moorhead’s playful Lucille in “Recent Works.”

Visiting Rod Moorhead’s “Recent Works” exhibit at the Jay Etkin Gallery is a unique experience. For starters, his artist’s statement is a highly charged short story titled “Movable Type,” which is printed in cyanotype on a clay tablet. In this account of young, reckless love, the artist searches for a “classy broad whose hips move like figure 8’s.” He goes to her ramshackle address and asks, “Where is Lucille?”
“There ain’t no bleeping bleep by that name stayin’ here,” is the answer, which is hurled at Moorhead along with a bottle of beer. And, indeed, Lucille is gone. With sculptures from three of his series — “Angels,” “Moveable Type,” and the “Daedalus Project” — the artist tells us the rest of her story.
Lucille is a lithe 20-something with as many lives as a cat. Except for an occasional piece of diaphanous drapery, a perky hat, a pair of underpants slipping halfway down her legs, and a set of wings, she is au naturel.
How are we to read Lucille? The clay figures from the “Angels” series are smoky-black, svelte nudes. They balance on top of tall thin metal supports. With legs and arms askew and bodies upside down, sideways, and somersaulting backward, Moorhead convincingly creates angels plummeting out of heaven. The works’ titles, Straight to Hell, God Abandoned, and The Days When Heaven Was Falling, also suggest an ousting from heaven or Eden.
But these falling angels are not about punishment or a loss of perfection. “They’re about entropy and about what the process of time gives and what time takes away,” explains Moorhead. Before our systems fail, what interests Moorhead the most, for himself and for Lucille, is “expressing as much as we can and reaching as high as we can.”
Look at Lucille’s expression. Even as she plummets, her face is relaxed and open, her lips slighted parted. She wants to take her body and heart as far as she can. In Day for Night Moorhead melds the energies of Lucille’s black personality with a white angel. Face to face, these two winged creatures do a two-step in and out of each others’ space, their pelvises almost touching. In this unsettlingly visceral work, these two beings are no longer able to fly and are learning to dance on earth. In yet another physical transformation, Flight, Moorhead’s nod to Bernini’s Greek heroine Daphne, Lucille lies back, cradling her head in one arm. With that same keen, relaxed interest in all things physical, she watches her right arm turn into a laurel branch.
Artworks from the “Moveable Type” series round out our heroine’s story with some playful adventures. When she spells out all the vowels in the English language, she wants to experience how words and ideas move through her body. With legs spread and underpants down to her knees, Lucille becomes a stylized sex kitten for “A.” She molds her body into a freeze frame from a Martha Graham dance piece for the letter “E.” For the “I,” she’s a combination of proper, shy, and unashamedly naked as she stands very straight, arms crossed at the small of her back, dressed only in a stylish sun hat that dots the “I.” She squats and cups her entire body into an orb that pantomimes the planet earth for “O,” and for “U” she assumes a beautifully executed yoga pose, the bow.
Lucille is a combination fallen angel, Degas dancer, and sex kitten, whose incarnation gets delightfully complicated by Greek myths, biblical metaphors, and the laws of physics. Moorhead’s complex, beautifully sculpted artworks may have you itching to share some of her adventures. Unlike the fatal fall of Daedalus’ young son Icarus (Temptations of Sun and Water), when Lucille reaches too high, she survives and learns how to experience life at the edge but not beyond. 
Through June 9th

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