In a combination of hand-wrought and manufactured metal and hand-sewn and upholstered geometric shapes, Tillman distills references to gaudy places of entertainment, faux-luxury, plumbing, furniture, and flashy fashion. Her sculptures carry an omnipresent echo of the body – as zippers, pipes, animal hair and leathers are metonyms for flesh, appendages, orifices, and skin. Unapologetically sexy, her uncanny minimal works evoke the frisson of fetish. Often modular, the wall sculptures amplify references as momentum builds across gestures big and small. Throughout the exhibition, nothing is given away or explicit. Warm “feminine” textiles, cheap girlish accessories, and cool, sleek metals juxtapose, as the artist connects disparate elements such as car exhaust pipes with upholstered shapes that suggest clutch purses, bar stools, or body fragments. Each sculpture is adorned, if only in a small but key measure, by clasps, chains, studs, or colorful piping. Some elements straddle competing realms – a piece of metal could be a drawer pull, plumbing, or a purse handle. The metal often aggressively attaches to the plush covered parts, adding yet another underhanded metaphor.
Tillman’s elegant, concise and pristine sculptures paradoxically manage to hint at the cheap and lurid, smoky club interiors or the flashy sexuality of the strip bar. The fantasy of luxury and the reality of the day to day, facades and simulated surfaces, the performative space of restaurants, amusement sparks and holiday hotels all situate the varied works in the exhibition. Odd additions of stark color via a hint of Hawaiian print fabric, a fake fruit, or a tourist shop sunset’s glaring palette, can upset the contained shapes and confident grand gestures. The artists’ sly echo of Minimalist sculptures mixes with Pop material and a postmodern interplay of binaries create a Freudian interplay of references and narratives. Tillman’s enigmatic works ask us to reassess familiar materials and work hard to create a precision and balance, only to upend our typical associations with comfort, tastefulness, luxury, or fantasy.