Art in Review – Monica Majoli
Ken Johnson
The New York Times
September 11, 1998

Feature Inc.
76 Greene Street
Through Oct. 3

Shock is cheap, or so some people would say. But it can be alloyed with other values to powerful effect, as it is in the paintings of Monica Majoli, a young artist from California.

The two startling works that make up this exhibition, Ms. Majoli’s first solo in New York, offer a resonant mix of the sacred and the profane. One is a nearly life-size, intensely realistic full-length picture of the artist herself, naked, eyes closed, standing against a glowing orange backdrop and holding a strap-on dildo. The other, a 15-inch circular painting, represents the artist naked and alone in bed, playing with two dildos.

The paintings have been beautifully made. Ms. Majoli devoted two years to each, which shows in the smoothly rendered forms, the incandescent luminosity and the glossy surface of the larger picture. Every element of the bedroom painting, including the rumpled bed and its patterned spread, the louvered windows, the lamp and other objects on the bedside table, is described with the loving attentiveness of a Northern Renaissance painter. But there is something slightly primitive about these works, too; they could be the efforts of a self-taught outsider.

Even as they verge on pornography, the paintings have a religious aura. In the standing picture, the artist is like a saint in holy ecstasy. The small painting calls to mind certain Indian miniatures in which the erotic and the mystical are inextricably wed.