top of page

Greg S. Flood


Art Writing

Aubrey Learner's unsettling show at Eli Ridgway Gallery


Works by artist Aubrey Learner from her show 'Circadian' at Eli Ridgway Gallery (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

Entering into the Eli Ridgway Gallery to see the show by Aubrey Learner, ‘Circadian,’ I was struck, from a distance, by the eerie and slightly disgusted feeling of seeing a display of taxidermied insects, like one would expect to see in a entomologist’s office. Walking up to see the works closer, I was relieved of the feeling of seeing actual insects and simultaneously fascinated by the realistic feel the drawings gave of seeing insects from a distance and how they held upon close inspection. That slightly disgusted feeling, however, continued to return as I walked through the show.


Aubrey Learner 'Pheromones,' 2011; watercolor on paper, 17.75 x 30.25 inches (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

Looking at ‘Pheromones,’ 2011 (watercolor on paper, 17.75 x 30.25 inches), the viewer is presented with two figures who are looking away from each other, but whose entire forms are implied by lines of ants caught in the act of walking between each form. The lines of ants between the two heads imply the passage of the scent between the two, as if they were both becoming aroused. The didactic nature of disgust with the image and the fascination and desire it elicits is exactly the feeling Learner was aiming for in her work.


Aubrey Learner, 'Squirm,' 2012; watercolor on paper, 29 x 29 inches (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

Looking around, one is confronted with the same feeling from other works, both explicitly sexual in nature, and others far more subtle. A more subtle work is ‘Squirm,’ 2012 (watercolor on paper, 29 x 29 inches), which shown four snails locked together in a circle of seeming coitus. The composition refers to ancient images of two snakes eating each other, but with a sexual twist that was never present before. The slimy feeling this work evokes stands in contrast with the gentle rendering of the shells and mollusk forms, which draws the viewer in to see how it was accomplished.


Aubrey Learner, 'Kandiland 1,' 2012; watercolor on paper, 40 x 35 inches (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

A work more explicit in nature can be found in the downstairs gallery, where the works have a different feel. ‘Kandiland 1,’ 2012 (watercolor on paper, 40 x 35 inches) is composed of pieces of candies instead of insects. While a relief from the eeriness of the pervious works, the candies themselves evokes the stickiness that occurs when the sugar gets all over one’s fingers and ties that to the feeling of residues from the sexual act. The composition here, as in others in this gallery, serves to undermine the use of sugary candies, or the allusion to them, in sexual advertising.


Works by artist Aubrey Learner from her show 'Circadian' at Eli Ridgway Gallery (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

In all of the works, both insect and confection based, by Learner sit in an uneasy space between horrification and fascination. However, they also go further in that the imagery she uses if of animals or objects that do not survive long in the natural world and therefore brings in the notion of the ephemeral nature of sex and its potential cause of destruction. The inclusion of a slightly morbid aspect to the pieces is perhaps the most haunting thing about them.

Aubrey Learner’s show ‘Circadian’ will be on view at Eli Ridgway Gallery until April 14, 2012. The gallery is located at 172 Minna Street, San Francisco, 94105; (415) 777-1366; Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm. More information about Aubrey Learner can be found here.


Works by artist Aubrey Learner from her show 'Circadian' at Eli Ridgway Gallery (Image courtesy of Eli Ridgway Gallery)

#EliRidgwayGallery #AubreyLearner #contemporaryart #Contemporarydrawing #SanFranciscoArt

  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Tumblr Social Icon
Recent Posts
bottom of page