Erin Riley: The Personal Is Now Political Again
When walking into Erin Riley’s exhibition Used Tape, you are confronted with a woven self-portrait of Riley masturbating at an angle as if you are the one pleasuring yourself. This piece, Show Me More, 2018 is the first of many weavings that the artist has incorporated herself into, either surrounded by personal items that exemplify her sexuality and femininity (ex. Violation, 2017) or alone making parts of her body the main focus. While incorporating herself, personal objects and history in some context in all of these new works she is able to, with her signature style of either angling the bodies to obscure the face or leaving the faces blank, allow the viewer to relate or even identify themselves in some way with the works.
The works in Used Tape are also, a strong break away from Riley’s earlier works in which she outsourced her imagery from the media and pornography. It was with these early works that I first discovered Riley in Juxtapoz in 2012. I was drawn to the explicit subject matter of her works that were made almost soft and approachable through the medium of weaving. It is this softness that is needed when viewing the works in the backroom where the other reality of sexuality and femininity, domestic violence and sexual assault. The most striking of these works is Evidence, 2017, an eleven foot weaving of a rape kit that hits the viewer in the face of the harsh reality of violence and sexuality that we have become all too familiar within the last 12 months.
The latest works by Riley display a new level of depth and maturity. While her works have always referenced and commented on sexuality, desire, society, and her own interests, it is with these works that continually reference herself and own trauma and history that we are able to not only relate but truly connect with the subjects and artist herself.
Erin Riley's solo exhibit Used Taped will be on view through June 30, 2018 at PPOW Gallery.