Review: Laub’s glass boxing gloves reveal fragility masked in toughness


Laub’s exhibition at Visitor Welcome Center advances an ethic of healing, through a personal lens. Inspired by the writings of therapist and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem, Laub (who goes by a single name) centers physical experience as a means of getting back in touch with one’s emotions and connecting to others.

If it sounds touchy-feely, it is, quite literally. The first thing one sees upon entering the show is “Feet Washing Station,” a low wooden bench, surrounded by cushions and “mouth-blown” glass vessels that visitors can use to wash one another’s feet. It’s art as a structure for caring.

“Mouth-blown” glass also appears along the walls, which are lined with four pairs of glass boxing gloves. These sculptures refer to Laub’s own exercise regimen, but also embody contradictory associations. They are at once tough and fragile, protective and potentially shattered. The emphasis on “mouth-blown” glass reminds us they are made with human breath; they not only adorn the body, but are products of it.

Laub, “Marily and her Mother,” 2018.
(Ruben Diaz)

There are also six textile works, resembling the cheery, seasonal banners that some suburbanites hang outside their homes. They depict figures from Laub’s family, in particular his young niece, her parents and grandparents. They are colorful and light-hearted — one is even shaped like a kite — but are stitched so densely and with such intensity that they feel a little desperate. They are celebratory but fiercely-worked documents of desire.

It’s not clear what specific personal traumas Laub is trying to heal, although his experience as a trans man likely complicates his relationship with traditional notions of gender, family and religion. Christian associations certainly arise in “Feet Washing Station,” and again in the final room of the exhibition, which features a video projection of a sleepy lamb. Off-screen, Laub serenades the animal —a Christ symbol — with lullabies of his own devising. These songs are gifts of the body: mouth-blown messages intended to soothe and care for another, even (or especially) one so different and vulnerable.

Visitor Welcome Center, 3006 W. 7th St., Suite 200A, (213) 703-1914, through Oct. 20. Closed Sunday through Tuesday.

Laub, “The Act of Growing Up: Emanations of a Soul Nerve Revival,” installation view, 2018.
(Ruben Diaz)