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One to Watch: Randy Polumbo


The artist's latest exhibition infuses phalluses with fun


Randy Polumbo's work could easily become an illicit one-liner. With shapes that resemble glass dildos or candy-colored phallic protuberances, there's something sly about its sexual nature. But his latest installation, Love Stream, (which closes this weekend at Steven Kasher gallery in New York City in an all-too-short run) takes his ideas and transcends the potential giggles to arrive at something more whimsical and inspired.

With the main commissioned piece, "Love Stream," Polumbo has taken a classic aluminum Airstream trailer and populated it with hundreds of colorful blown glass pieces that look like polyps (or stamens), making you feel as if you're inside a sea anemone or some sort of glowing organic womb. It's this blending of the masculine and feminine that begins to elevate a viewer's relationship to the work. It's not just a male wink-wink.

Although he's straight, Polumbo doesn't shy away from the fact that the suggestive imagery may appeal to both men and women. "Boys and girls alike both like grabbing a stick shift, a big door handle, or baseball bat," he explains in a recent conversation. "I'm interested in a grander organic reading. I like that those forms come from there, originally from human anatomy and symmetry of all these shapes that exist in the world."

Other pieces are glass "udders"; most of the objects are things that you want to stroke or tug or squeeze. Polumbo says he sees these udders as "fuel cells" and much of his work is connected to energy and can be read as libidinal or not.

Some may recall his earlier work, "Lovesac," which was cast from a Birkin bag and contained gorgeous glass pieces inspired by stamens but looking like lively dildos. When displayed in the window of the Museum of Sex, people would stop in their tracks as they tried to decipher what they were experiencing. Polumbo's still working within a similar vocabulary of form and medium. These pieces aren't easy (or cheap) to create, but the hard work pays off: they do seem to bring joy to the people who experience them. That's part of the intention, according to Polumbo.

"I see the "Love Stream" apparatus as part instrument, part libidinal particle accelerator," he says. "There are two occular openings, so you can go inside it, and it's also a visual transformational device, but it's also like a seed. You could tow it, practically deploy it anywhere. Like a dandelion seed or milkweed pod, it could send its genetic payload in any direction."
Polumbo's Love Stream exhibit will remain on view at Steven Kasher through September 29.

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