Martha Poggioli
Rational Behavior

November 9 - December 15, 2019
Opening reception: Saturday, November 9, 6-9pm
Closing reception: Sunday, December 15, 4-6pm


Extase is pleased to present “Rational Behavior,” a solo exhibition of new work by Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Martha Poggioli. Poggioli works primarily within the design, media, and social discourses to consider the consequences of unnoticed or underappreciated systems, objects, and their functions. For “Rational Behavior,” as well as through ongoing investigation into representations of and relations to the body and its environment, Poggioli unearths histories of industrial design to expose larger socio-political issues relating to embodiment, inhabitation, and gendered objects. 

For the artist’s first solo exhibition and throughout her practice, she utilizes industrial processes of making as a way to bolster the ideas at hand. “Rational Behavior” is comprised of a materially rich body of work: sculpture, computer generated resin printed reliefs, extruded acrylic and aluminum wall-mounted work, inflatable silicone prints, and a sound piece incorporating blown glass occupy the gallery space. 

Many know the artist’s work for her laborious and illuminating research on the history of contraceptive technologies, but “Rational Behavior” serves as a temporary departure to explore ideas analogous to this subject.

Recurrent motifs, such as hands, are some of the most recognizable and representational elements in both Poggioli’s 2D and 3D works in “Rational Behavior.” The hands present in the aluminum and resin sculpture titled Metal Heart, for example, are 3d modeled and then 3d printed in resin. Each micro hand is created through an accumulation of other hands sourced from the CGI images on CPR safety cards that Poggioli encountered while she was a fellow at the Ox-Bow Residency this past summer. The pale green of the hands conjures antiseptic imagery of doctor's office latex gloves or a paper-thin gown one might be asked to change into at a medical appointment. This is due to the fact that the color is taken directly from the green gloved hands of the CGI reference.

With this is mind, Poggioli’s work often explores the internal architecture of the body as well as the medical objects that can live and operate in one’s body without detection, therefore her color choices are highly intentional, and color is an important element of the show. Employing colors such as this light green references these sterile spaces, and Poggioli again incorporates the same color with her cast acrylic, resin, and aluminum wall-mounted work titled Hands. The cherry red that recurrently manifests in the work of this exhibition - notably in her inflatable prints and hand-blown glass sound piece - also demonstrate this interest.

In these two works, Hands and Metal Heart, Poggioli creates the simulated hands through the aforementioned CGI imagery of two figures in green gloves engaging in CPR training; however, her final hand form is also the product of incorporating the imagery of green gum flossing tools. This combination of two seemingly disparate forms is intentional and belies Poggioli’s interest in objects that are simulations of themselves. As an Australian living in Chicago, Poggioli notes that these tools that assist in flossing are not as ubiquitous in Australia like they are in America. These cleaners in many ways are an performative material applied to help mediate an action that one could otherwise just do with their hands. Like a kind of prosthetic, the teeth cleaner stands in for the hand but is also the hand doing the work - and here one realizes the connection between this object used to sterilize and clean and the hand forms present in the work in “Rational Behavior.” This superfluous albeit popular  tool also can prevent one’s fingers from actually having to touch their teeth and in this way both mediates the interaction and keeps it sterile. 

Other elements of the exhibition are more narrative and romantic, expressed through silicone typology.

- Budgie Birka-White, Director and Curator, Extase

Martha Poggioli (b. 1988 Brisbane, Australia) is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist. She holds an MFA in Designed Objects from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from Queensland University of Technology (Australia). Poggioli has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships such as the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry residency (2020), LeRoy Neiman Foundation Ox-Bow Fellowship (2019), the New Arts Society Merit Scholarship (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2017-19), the Shapiro Centre Research Fellowship (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2018), and the Career Development Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts (2017), among others. She has exhibited work at LVL3 (Chicago), Space p11 (Chicago), C3 Contemporary Art Space Gallery (Melbourne), RMIT Design Hub (Melbourne) and Kunstgewerbemuseum (Dresden, Germany). 

Press: Chicago Artist Writers, New City, F News Magazine

Hear the audio for Poggioli's sound piece "Lovely Love Song" (2019) here.

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All images by Jesse Meredith

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