Ilona Szwarc: Virgin Soap

September 4 - October 9, 2021

A solo exhibition of photographs and sculpture by Polish-American artist Ilona Szwarc.  In her new body of work, Virgin Soap, Szwarc documents herself casting a model’s torso in silicone and plaster. The model lies prone on a table, her breasts exposed, classically posed against a highly colored backdrop. A perverse tutorial proceeds: Szwarc stands behind the model, a presence at once intimate and coercive. The artist binds her subject’s breasts with laces in order to measure them, then covers the model’s breasts, shoulders, and mouth in green silicone. The title of Virgin Soap is drawn from Charles Simic’s poem, “Breasts”, a devotional in which Simic declares breasts to be “foam on which our hands are cleansed.” In Szwarc’s work, this metaphoric cleansing is both transformational and restrictive: While physically restrained by the plaster, the model challenges the camera with her gaze.