Delicate yellow spores floating like lily pads in a lagoon of yogurt; curdled dairy separated into strata of bright turquoise blue; creamy rose rivulets coagulating on the sides of glass vessels, giving rise to condensation that collects above. Sometimes we are attracted to the repellent. Such is the case with Alice Morey’s first institutional exhibition, “Conditioning Demands,” in which the artist mixes pigments with probiotic bacteria to foster the growth of mold, proposing decay as a proxy for transformation.
The show’s eponymous installation comprises six hand-blown glass receptacles hanging from chains, framed by two painted silk curtains that billow in response to your body as you pass by. Inside each bulbous vase is a canvas immersed in yogurt and powders of lapis lazuli, red ochre, and malachite, among other minerals. A subtle scent of fermentation fills the air—colorful cultures breeding amid the metabolic action of enzymes. The nearby painting Test One (Malachite) (all works 2022), shows the results of such experiments, its cavernulous green and chocolate surface a rich abstraction that evokes mottled earth.
Other paintings like A Map of Tenderness, 2022—an abstract with a white horizon line dividing registers of washy brown and bright orange, with smatterings of blue and green—also conjure landscapes, while winking at the meditative introspection of Mark Rothko’s color fields. Morey, however, decenters the human, allowing closed ecosystems and their biochemical reactions to create their own universe of microorganisms, coaxed into shape by her hand. Such an intentional loss of overt authorial control subverts the timeworn trope of the male genius to focus our attention not only on nonhuman forms, but on other possibilities for cultivating subjecthood. Morey thus conceives a portrait of the Brownian motion that underpins the struggle for earthly existence, all the while renouncing the human arrogance that set the Anthropocene in motion.