Lily van der Stokker’s candy-colored work has always tempered its sense of twee with a critical bite. In “Exhibition of the Medicines,” a chiffon-yellow palette serves as the Dutch artist’s backdrop for a diaristic divulgence of the drugs and doctors that treat her and her friends’ maladies. Now in her mid-sixties, she considers the everyday subject matter of aging—that most universal concern. Her new drawings take on a heavier meaning here in the United States, where essential oils are hawked as preventive care, but single-payer health insurance remains a pipe dream.
The artist’s mural Age 65.75, 2019, includes the names of various physicians, embedded in shapes that look like cartoonish explosions. On the towering wooden sculpture Washing Machine (object with teapot), 2019, a schematic version of the titular household appliance, Van der Stokker has painted the names of ointments and prescription tablets. The eclectic mix of herbal remedies and Western drugs—ashwagandha, cranberry pills, triphala churna, Oxycodone—could be seen as an unsettling portrait of our times. If the culture of “wellness” is a new frontier for capitalism, are the artist’s drug lists a contemporary rejoinder to Warhol’s myriad flavors of Campbell’s soup?
Among her smaller works on paper is a diagrammatic flowchart that’s quietly powerful. I have f25,- in my pocket (design for wall painting), 2001–19, documents virtually everything: from the artist’s family tree (she is childless) to her passport number and modest yearly income. In the drawing, Van der Stokker also reveals a canny real estate investment: She bought a New York apartment in 1993 for the jaw-droppingly low price of $55,000. Life does not need to be grand to be good.
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