In his latest exhibition, Satellite of Love, Randy Polumbo mines the fertile veins of pollination, proliferation, and reproduction in a culture of lavish excess. Using signature strategies of seducing the eye with glowing objects and playful forms, Polumbo draws us into his provocative world to reconsider questions of sexual identity and societal intercourse.
Central to the exhibition are Love Sacs, glowing lead crystal vessels cast from the iconic Hermes Birkin Bag. These status symbols blossom with exquisite hues of blown glass: stamens and pistils spun from the sex toys Polumbo has employed in his earlier works. Some rigid, some wilting over the bags’ taut lips, phallic objects are disarmed as threatening weapons and made subservient to the whims of their containers. Supported on a bed of solar panel petals, the array recalls the botanical processes of photosynthesis and the prosthetic relationship between technology and organisms.
Picking up on themes of consumerism and the commodification of sex, Dairy Case lies exposed on a table. The piece is the gender reversal of Polumbo’s Love Sacs. In place of a woman’s handbag, this piece’s shell is a vintage Louis Vuitton briefcase packed tightly with an armory of cast glass nipples, brightly arrayed with borders of white LEDs. Solar panels, embedded in the briefcase lid, create the possibility of a self-contained accessory for the mechanized delivery of lactiferous sustenance. The Love Sacs and Dairy Case together demonstrate Polumbo’s even-handed, gender-neutral approach to the removal of the host body.
Glass nipples explode from here and come to rest across a large wall. Twenty-one glowing teats, a work entitled Galaxy, which remind us of the feminist herstory and the potential female origins of the Universe.
Two video works, Payflower and Wallflower, feature pretty flowers each composed of a polar array of ejaculating phalli. They recall floral allusions to female genitalia and reinforce the image of the blossom as a reproductive organ, both male and female in its reproductive life cycle.
There is by now a healthy body of artistic output dealing with representations of sex. Polumbo updates these efforts by reaching beyond dated ideas of what constitutes sexual identity or sexual form. He poses post-identity, post-shock questions of libidinal impulse as consumer instinct, and presents the potential for technology and money to displace the messiness of human interaction. This stance builds on his previous explorations of hybrid techno-organic forms filled equally with the promise of new possibilities and the threat of things gone awry.