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Pippa Garner at JOAN


Pippa Garner’s solo exhibition at JOAN is a welcome deep dive into six decades of the artist’s work. Garner’s practice has long been as an idiosyncratic inventor, a creator of cheeky devices that critique American culture. As a former combat illustrator in the Vietnam War, Garner’s inventions get played out as endless drawings that read like satirical critiques of American culture. “Self Hood Ornament, made from your photo!” one drawing exclaims, picturing a man’s photo next to a custom hood ornament modeled after his face. 

For the JOAN show, titled “Immaculate Misconceptions,” several of Garner’s inventions have been expanded off the page into three dimensions for the first time.“Breathing Bed,” for example, features a bed with an apparatus placed under the duvet so it looks as if it’s breathing. At the show opening, a small side table with candy on top was attached to a Roomba, offering sweets to gallery guests. 

Many of the drawings featured in the “Inventor’s Office,” a small room within the gallery containing a large desk and drawings wallpapered throughout, playfully upend gender into more fluid and expansive experimentations (made in the ‘80s, Garner’s open celebration of this type of fluidity was well before its time). Many are playful interventions into business attire—suits with the breasts cut out, or slacks patterned with wiffleball-sized holes throughout. A vitrine in the gallery presents the artist’s more personal writing on gender and documents that track Garner’s own gender transition in the ‘80s. As a retrospective, the exhibition is a welcome introduction to an artist whose world has only recently been getting its due in the art world, and whose fearless experimentation around gender and American culture has always been bold, humorous, and evolving.

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Photo: Pippa Garner at the opening of “Immaculate Misconceptions” at JOAN. Image courtesy of the artist and JOAN.