The installation She Number One consists of 50 concrete hands and arms cast from 25 women in the arts in Mexico City. The pieces hang on rusty hooks and aircraft cable from the original atrium roof structure of the house. Each hand is unique and in a distinct pose. From the fingers extend transparent, pointed acrylic nails.
The title is taken from a 1972 sculpture by the American sculptor and poet Barbara Chase-Riboud. Early works of Chase-Riboud’s demonstrate an integration of contrasting materials – silk and wool with bronze – signaling femininity and masculinity – into a unified abstract figure, suggesting a vertical human form.
The installation functions as a contemporary response to this type of work, now fractured and fragmentary, instead of a figure. There is no reconciliation of body, no whole to be made, only frozen momentary gestures.
The installation uses all hard materials – metal and concrete with acrylic polymer – but there is nevertheless a stark gender duality implicit in the contrast of perfect, minuscule nails on rough, industrial concrete.
From below, the works feel menacing in their weight and with their dagger-shaped nails looming overhead. Seen from the balcony, the gentle swaying of the arms as pendulums silences this violence and creates a more contemplative atmosphere. A softer, textile aspect is suggested in the hanging and slight movements of the arms.
The artist often works with fabric and previously worked as a print designer, which can observed in the use of motif and repetition in the installation. While each arm is unique, many poses repeat, primarily as folded fingers and bent wrists. The nails, uniquely sculpted but an imposed element, serve to wash over individuality. They are small details that make each arm more like the next, rather than stand out.
Body and artifice become one in the sculptures, and the hand – the member of the body most symbolic of action and agency – is made into yet another disarticulated fetish object. Now forming part of a mass and on display, the hands seem to reach toward something external. The folds of fingers and wrists suggest they reach only toward themselves.