I had my gender reassignment 16 years ago when I was 21. My art deals with the body because I live in one. I have no shame in being eccentric, in fact it has given me the power and the courage to do whatever I want. I lost my inhibitions early on and my desire to fit in with society. Why do you want to be accepted by people you don’t even like? I do what I want when I want and it’s my freedom to be an artist living in the underground. Damn judgment.
Greer Lankan, 1996
Company Gallery presents DOLL PARTY, an exhibition of works by seminal and multidisciplinary artist Greer Lankton (1958-1996), organized in collaboration with the Greer Lankton Archives Museum (GLAM)
The presentation pays homage to the ethos of this great cultural icon in photographs, Polaroids and sculptures made in the 1980s when she lived and worked in the East Village with her husband, Paul Monroe. In 1984 Monroe gave Lankton her first solo show at her boutique EINSTEINS which was so successful that two years later she opened her own gallery in the boutique called THE DOLL CLUB. In addition to showing works in the gallery, Lankton would also use the store window to create displays that expressed his delights and concerns. Having lost 36 friends in two years to AIDS, Lankton created several facilities that forced people to deal with the ongoing effects of the crisis on their community. The window also introduced passers-by to the Sissy Doll, one of Lankton’s most recognized works of art, who underwent the same gender reassignment surgery as the artist.
Lankton is perhaps best known for her fully realized cloth dolls which she would animate and then photograph in tableaux of glamour, humor, pain and decay. She explored and exploited fame, popular advertising and the downtown New York club scene as tools to describe a personal narrative. Her thought-provoking views on gender and sexuality have guided her in creating a prolific body of seductive, confrontational and obsessive work. Using both high and low aesthetics, her dolls often functioned as autobiographical figures to illustrate the scope and gravity through which she navigated the complicated relationship she had with her own body.
Her interest in fame grandeur is exemplified by her dolls’ photographs of notable icons, including trans model Teri Toye, performance artist Ethyl Eichelberger, drag star Divine and legend Candy Darling. Here we see Lankton’s sculptures at rest and in action, sometimes performing for an audience and other times in indoor settings among intimate effects. As the limelight facade fades, we encounter more unsettling depictions of the body in motion. With unique attention to anatomy, Lankton worked on her dolls with the grace of a surgeon; fragmented body parts become memories held in states of vulnerability, decay and radical transformation. Lankton was particularly drawn to the navel, drawing from her own experience having had naval surgery that enhanced her navel to appear deeper. She even provided a service at EINSTEINS where you could bring your childhood stuffed animal and she would give it an innie or an outie for a fee.
Although most widely known for her sculptures, Lankton has always included a portfolio of photography and installations in her solo exhibitions. For the first time in an exhibition highlighting his journey, COMPANY will place particular emphasis on this facet of his practice. Together, the works on display celebrate the vast expanse of human experience that Lankton so charmingly captures in his works. Although the exhibition presents only a small part of Lankton’s rich artistic output, the hope is that it will illustrate the depth of his exuberant personality and the significance his legacy left behind.
Greer Lankan, DOLL PARTYfrom October 29 to December 3, 2022, Opening: Saturday October 29, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Gallery 3) COMPANY 145 Elizabeth Street
About the artist
Greer Lankton (1958-1996) was born in Flint, Michigan. She studied fabrics at the Art Institute of Chicago (1975-1978) and received a BFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1981. After moving to Chicago in 1991, she continued her solid career, including her participation in the Whitney Biennial, New York, followed by the presentation of her work at the Venice Biennial, both in 1995. She is the first trans artist to be exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the Whitney, at LACMA, and the list keeps growing. as it opens the door to future possibilities.
Notable recent group exhibitions include ART AFTER STONEWALL, 1969-1989 at the Leslie Lohman Museum, 2019, Like life: sculpture, color, and the body at the Met Breuer, 2018, Outliers and American Vanguard Art, curated by Lynn Cooke, exhibited at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, both in 2018 and at LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, 2018-2019, Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture at the Museum of the City of New York, 2016, and EAST VILLAGE USA at the New Museum, NY, 2004-2005. In 2011, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives in Los Angles presented the first retrospective of Lankton’s work titled Greer Lankton: You Can’t Throw it Away, curated by Paul Monroe and the Greer Lankton Archives Museum (GLAM). And in 2014, Participant Inc, New York presented the first major exhibition of Lankton’s work in New York since his death, titled Greer Lankton, LOVE ME, also organized in cooperation with GLAM. Lankton’s works are included in several important private and public collections, including The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY and The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
A lot has happened in art and gender politics since then. After two decades under the radar, Lankton is now, in a way, a prophet come home.
Holland Cotter, The New York Times, 2015