You can soak in much of Suné Woods’s expanded photographic practice at Casemore Kirkeby (through November 17) while reclining on a body pillow, on a stage carpeted in eggplant-colored shag. Built out of a corner, this actually seems less a theatrical setting than one that elevates relaxation – there’s an atmospheric sound piece, Ascension, 2018, that revels in relaxing, bubbling underwater audio. This generous multimedia work intends to keep the viewer in the room and to facilitate a more embodied sensual experience. From the elevated stage, you can see painterly photographs that feature other reclining figures. On one wall, painted a pale lavender, is a work titled Primary, 2017. A collage of image and color, it centers on an erotic photograph of a nude black woman, on her back, in a pose that brings to mind Courbet’s most notorious painting (The Origin of the World, 1866), while a nude black man nuzzles her bare breast. The image is most likely from a vintage porn magazine, but as augmented by a pan-African palette of green, ochre, and rusty red paint (and then enlarged and presented as a unique print), the piece takes on a lush, sexy mysticism.
Woods uses water as a vehicle to explore intimacy as well as physical and psychological porousness. A series of crumpled prints of the ocean – Venice Beach, CA, to be precise – printed on a pliable cotton-based paper, are attached to the wall, where they resemble gathering clouds. Evaporation is implied. Each of these works is titled Of Water, 2018, and they allude to photography’s use of liquid chemicals, as well as a nod to eco-activism, an honoring of the earth and sea. In a back room, Woods presents an underwater video work that records a swim on the Florida coast in which a single pale yellow jack fish swims close to her body for an extended amount of time. It’s clear from the footage that Woods is shooting this unexpected experience herself, and her camera traces the body with incredible intimacy, like a stripped-down version of Pipilotti Rist’s Sip My Ocean (1996). It’s a calming, immersive, trans-species encounter that heightens your senses. You feel it.