Maxime Angel, Let My Eyes Be Your Mirror

From the pencil shavings and strewn magazines on the floor, it looks something like Maxime Angel has been living in the gallery. Indeed, there are reports she has slept on several works.

She may even have slept inside the containerboard on the wall. The gallery assistant tells me the college-trained artist was also for a period of time a rough sleeper. Cardboard was canvas.

Other details suggest Maxime is not exactly the girl next door. Visitors are confronted with the dark energy of a range of illustrated cocks and may spot two graphic all male orgy scenes.

A spot of (desk) research confirms the artist is transgender, and HIV positive. So the lead-blunting skulls here are not just for effect. The memento mori have been lived in as well.

Take away the biography and you would still have a show with charge. What it might lack in imagination and finesse, it makes up for with desire and suffering. No press release needed.

But the life story will still impress. Angel sounds like an outlaw. Her exposure to life on the streets and a deadly pandemic are among factors which might just authenticate this work.

Otherwise, it could still be said the show is a worthy example of an artistic tradition which dates back to the Salon des Refusés. It is powerful either way; too strong if anything.

Let My Eyes Be Your Mirror is at Centre for Recent Drawing, London, until 17 June 2011. See gallery website for more details. There’s a brief but interesting Q&A with the artist in Dazed Digital.

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