The best way to approach “Tongue & Nail” is by starting with the artworks that inspired the ensemble. And you won’t miss them. Kat Bawden’s visceral microfilm, Tongue Tie, is playing on loop on Iceberg’s gallery wall. The black-and-white video displays a tongue, close-up and painfully bound by thin twine. Beneath the video is Tarik Kentouche’s replica of Carlo Mollino’s “Gaudi” chair, one of four featured at the gallery. For those unfamiliar with Mollino’s original design, it is undeniably “tongue-ish,” reminiscent of an open jaw with an extruding tongue. After they encountered these two pieces, John Neff and Dan Berger were inspired to find other “tongue-ish” art to curate a full exhibition.
“Tongue & Nail” is a modest show, featuring only one or two contributions each from Doron Langberg, Le Hien Minh, Jeff Prokash, David Sprecher, Tom of Finland, and Maggie Wong to accompany Kentouche and Bawden. But what stands out is the variety of mediums that together conflate the body and severity. The result is tender, emerging in Langberg’s erotic and warm oil paintings or Wong’s To Iceberg,a naturally-dyed linen cloth with a watercolor gradient that is draped (or possibly disposed of) in the gallery’s corner. The eye is drawn immediately to Minh’s Ornamentalism and its delicate follicles that protrude from the wall, made from wood and traditional Vietnamese handmade Dó paper. Her sculpture blends together the fragility of Kentouche’s sculptures and the discomfort of Bawden’s video. “Tongue & Nail”’s entire ensemble confronts this contradiction, balancing the line between flesh and material.
“Tongue & Nail”
Through 4/30: Sat 11 AM-4 PM, Iceberg Projects, 7714 N. Sheridan, icebergchicago.com