Commonwealth and Council

Rainbow Control Room

Suzanne Wright


Commonwealth & Council presents Rainbow Control Room, an exhibition of new work by Suzanne Wright and a companion video program sharing the same title. This is Wright’s third exhibition with the space.

Rainbow Control Room is a large-scale painting of a spaceship cockpit that transports the viewer to multiple queer destinations. Transplanting an optical framework that co-opts a glory hole, Wright offers a new interface to envision—where this once coded architectural intervention—becomes an intergalactic portal to otherworldly delights. The videos by the ten artists channel transformative bodies of alterity through sex, humor, alchemy, sci-fi, queer architecture, and future feminism. 

Below is an excerpt from Katherine Brewer Ball’s essay: 

Wandering through the dark horizons and interstellar landscapes of Suzanne Wright’s latest series of drawings and collages, I found myself searching my galactic knowledge and speculative beginnings. Wright’s work typically orbits around the spot where science fiction meets the erotic. Her plywood painting series “Galactic Glory Holes,” her large-scale colored pencil drawings such as “Rainbow Highway” and “Choo-Choo,” and her collages of female-bodied landscapes in pleasure, all imagine the absurd and genuine erotics of holes and portals. Starting over and entering back into the work from Wright’s residency at Carnegie Mellon, I am taken by these interstellar chambers of control and release. I wonder what I actually know about galactic exploration, black holes, and their gravitational pull. Floating through Wright’s sublime wall-sized images, I am reminded that the fantasy of the cosmos requires both desire and belief. 

Each piece in Rainbow Control Room plays on 1970’s science fiction fantasies and their libidinal manifestation in space and place. Wright turns space exploration back on the bodies and perspectives that imagine it. Sexy pin-ups are pulled out from under her parents’ bed and quietly examined from atop a sienna shag rug. Pudgy child-sized hands slowly flip through pages that depict women in the throws of ecstasy while Barbarella plays on the teevee. “All you know I know: careening astronauts and bank clerks glancing at the clock before lunch…” Like the prose-y riddles in Samuel Delany's Dhalgren, these large-scale colored pencil drawings and collages are not meant to be solved. Instead, these works ask questions and perplex; they are both humorous and survivalist. Wright imagines the world promised by the galactic and erotic fairytales of her youth. 

The magisterial colored pencil “Amazonite” is a seven-by-four feet crystal outcropping. Amazonite is also a gemstone; its green vertical lines enhance loving communication and confident utterances. Wright’s “Amazonite” drawing is twisted, broken, and reassembled. Flat-topped shards jut out in every direction and invisible lines of microcline feldspar turn to darker blue and crimson. The background is edged by slated light greens and grays making the broken collection of blue phalli appear as if it were moving, emerging out of the protective sheath of gray shale. I can picture a cutout Jane Fonda wildly straddling the rock. But in Wright’s dwarfing drawing, Fonda is played by the rock. She is the Amazon from the mythic nation of women warriors that Homer warned of in The Illiad

In “Missing Men,” white cut-out pilot heads appear in the foreground; one wears aviator glasses while the other rests his fleshy beige arm on the throttle. Any moment now they will touch down on the landing strip in front of them. Their collage control panel is colored in bright swaths of lime green, lavender, and aqua pencil. The paneling on the topside of the cockpit displays highlighted buttons, knobs, and switches. The collage reads like a child’s coloring book, a wet dream, and virtual reality mock-up. The monitors reveal shades and tones instead of fine lines of balance and control. The gaze of the missing men has been excised and made redundant, irrelevant. The curving landscape reveals a naked body, even as the landing strip itself has been obscured by the fine metal line that bridges the nose of the plane. Instead of her face, we see a close-up of the underside of her well-endowed toe.