Archive for April, 2012

The Hole Shebang

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

It was among the best indoor pool parties, and certainly the best one in an art gallery.  The Water’s Fine was the second solo show by Grayson Cox at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert, Inc.

Grayson Cox, "The Water's Fine," at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert

For the self-evidently ambitious, adventurous, and fun The Water’s Fine, gallery visitors immediately confronted a choice between committing or bailing. Here, committing was marked by a phenomenological and physical interaction: one had to hunch over and scurry under the expansive “table” to reach the nearest opening. (Then, stand up and breathe.) The conceptual gesture belongs to the viewer, soon feeling the burn in his or her thighs.

Grayson Cox, "Table," 2012

Next, a viewer contemplated which “hole” to pursue next. (Where do you see yourself? Do you want the capacious big hole? Or is the single-serve small hole more private?) And while shuffling underneath, the viewer might begin to appreciate this architectural underworld. The hiding child: “Will anyone know I’m here?” The forensic professional: “Now to see how they built this.” The lecherous adult: “Can I do bad things here?”

Drop in, drop out

Chris Benfield of Benfield Architects solved the problems of building this landmass of inverted cocktail tables, this anti-matter pool party, called Table. According to Grayson, Benfield “shared his library of books on ergonomic design that proved invaluable when determining actual measurements for body odor zones and body-space considerations. Mr. Benfield also designed the way the sculpture would be made into a kit and fit together without and screws or nails.”

Architect Chris Benfield (center) with arrayed body-odor zones

Spaced around the perimeters of Table were slightly more than a dozen bleach prints on canvas, each framed by wood and enamel frames, many equipped with cupholders or hand cubbies.  With titles like The Welcome, The Confrontation, and The Understudy, which could be inspired by Irving Goffman, Grayson reveals his interest in interpersonal dynamics. These static works fit within a social, theatrical, vision that no doubt finds support in the relational Table.  How far could this go?  Are vestigial fingerprints and beer residue desirable on those enamel frames?  How about half-full or half-empty cans, the ubiquitous “floaters?”  And what does it mean when nobody is there?  Interesting to me is how Grayson speaks about the prophylactic qualities of gray enamel, even though the entirety of The Water’s Fine, including the raw, bunker space seem to invite ergonomic pentimenti and other scuff marks.

Moreover, Grayson speaks in interviews about “the stations of the cross” and votive “candles” when describing these works, which, with integrated frames and sometimes hinges, seem like altarpieces. The religious content becomes apparent, and one wonders – does Table separate the sky above from the terrain below? Who gets to go above and who remains below? Or the other way around?

El Greco, "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz," 1586

Freshly Fishy

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

You Are What you Eat is the impression I get from Alisa Baremboym’s Abundant Delicacy.  At 47 Canal Street, it’s Baremboym’s first solo show, featuring inkjet prints on cotton, ceramic sculptures, and luggage.  She channels a collective esprit de corps that sings: we are squishy, oily, perishable – putrid unless preserved.

Alisa Baremboym, "Beet Palette," 2012

Work about the body is always compelling, even more so in an election year.  Concepts of government as a body are millenia old, beginning with Plato and refreshed by Hobbes and Tocqueville.  Mind-body dualism engenders the separation between legislative and executive functions.  Radicals and demagogues still abuse the metaphor of cancer: “progressives are a cancer,” “Deficits are a Cancer,” “ObamaCare is a Cancer,” etc.   Have fun applying this metaphor to right-wing legislative attacks on women’s bodies (Body versus bodies), or the right-wing Supreme Court justices voting against the Affordable Care Act (Mind versus bodies).

Barbara Kruger, "Untitled (Your body is a battleground)," 1989

Baremboym takes up the body to review how people – at least Western, developed people – cycle through a machine world from birth to death.  From conception, through death and estate, people are as processed as commodities in cargo.  We are refrigerated, shipped, hoisted, sorted, padded, irradiated, and marketed.  Every natural process is met with a manufactured product or process.  Born? Insurance.  Pooping? Diapers.  Period? Maxi pads.  Sad? Prozac.  Married? Legal status.  Bored? Vacation ads. Farmville.  Aging? List begins here.  Otherwise, you are the product.

Alisa Baremboym, "Lox," 2010

Her models for the body are lox, sardines, bread, and the things that carry them.  Seeing Lox, up close, reminds me of skin or fat cells under a microscope.  Sardines brings to mind every ride on a rush-hour A train.   And in a compression of these symbols, she presents cling-wrapped luggage.

Alisa Baremboym, "Sardine Luggage" (2012) and "Lox Luggage" (2011)

Sardine Luggage and Lox Luggageare like guts wrapped in skin wrapped in clothes – full of shit.  This localized, but made-to-travel quarantine additionally invokes sexual fetish, mummification, or even a straitjacket.  Incidentally, much of this work looks cool, patterned, clean, and even funny.  Painting-scaled inkjet printing still reminds me of Kelley Walker.  This style seems to belie Baremboym’s pithy reductions.  Paradox is present, however, as soon as we consider the oxymoronic title of her show.

Her ceramics look like deposit receptacles, even without the obvious titles: Trough, Urinal, Bedpan.  Hidden inside Breadestal is a roll of toilet paper.  When the log rolls over, we’ll all be dead.  Toilet as destiny.

From Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" (1989)

The most morbid, chilling piece is Meat Locker.  It’s allegedly a photo taken at a sausagefactory in New Jersey.  Here, it’s printed on a translucent veil of silk and stretched over the steel elevator door.  If it doesn’t make you think of undignified death, then you haven’t considered the source (of everything).  “Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else,” said Tyler Durden.  Brrr.

Alisa Baremboym, "Meat Locker" (2012)