Showing posts with label Josephine Meckseper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Josephine Meckseper. Show all posts

Monday, April 16

Shelve it

It wasn’t until after I wrote about Dave McKenzie’s (B)lack that I realized how much work in Just Kick It Till It Breaks presents shelves or tables as a primary element. (B)lack is not a literal shelf, of course, but Carol Bove and Josephine Meckseper use real shelves in their work in the exhibition. Bozidar Brazda and Fia Backström use tables as a key part of their installations. (Tables are to sculpture as shelves are to reliefs.) Uses of flags and banners have been common in contemporary art—witness Michael Phelan’s and Garder Eide Einarsson’s work in the exhibition—but I haven’t yet noticed shelves. Haim Steinbach (above) is an obvious precedent, but I am sure there are others.

Thursday, April 5

Josephine Meckseper

On her Saatchi Gallery page (a lingering element of her participation in the show USA Today) it states that Josephine Meckseper’s work “[often uses] department store display cases and sales ephemera.” Commentary on her work of this kind, and, perhaps, her show % at Elizabeth Dee, has clearly established that Meckseper’s formal vocabulary is on some level taken from the visual vocabulary of the way stores display their products. But, the thing is, questions still remain. I say this because I find it difficult to imagine myself mistaking one of Meckseper’s pieces with an authentic instance store display. So, I then wonder, what exactly is Meckseper’s relationship to this? Meckseper’s relationship to it is very different than Haim Steinach’s and Fia Backström’s because with them, I could, in fact, imagine myself mistaking their work with the thing they are imitating. Their work is a very literal imitation of the way products are displayed in stores at present. Steinbach and Backström mime different versions of it but they overlap in terms of the literalness of their attack. Meckseper’s approach is, rather, a more metaphorical one. It merely suggests the idea of store display without literally imitating it. But, a sound argument could nonetheless be made that all three artists reference store display for a similar reason: in order to call attention to the fact that galleries are stores, the kind that sell art (yawn). However, that aside, what distinguishes Meckseper’s work from Steinbach’s or Backstrom’s is a quality that she has in common with David Altmejd’s: the poetry filter. In other words, Meckseper like Altmejd takes the idea of product display from the store and filters it through something else. For example, with Altmejd’s work we get what looks like store display systems, the sort found in upscale clothing stores, boutiques and department stores, but filtered through a fantasy of zombie apocalypse, Dawn of the Dead (or maybe, rather, Dungeons and Dragons). He takes the product plinth and converts it into a stage for some romantic fantasy of disaster and decay. Meckseper does something similar but with different filters. She takes the shelves and vitrines of boutiques and departments stores and filters them through the covers of a couple of early Brian Eno albums: No Pussyfooting (Eno’s 1973 collaboration with Robert Fripp) and Here Comes The Warm Jets (1974). No Pussyfooting is there in larger proportions than Here Come the Warm Jets but there are elements of both. The effect this kind of filter creates is a kind of temporal confusion, an anachronistic collision of styles, a look that might be described as dystopian glam. Another way of saying the same thing, and, by the way, it is mostly only in evidence in Just Kick It Till It Breaks in Meckseper’s only shelf piece in the show, Untitled (Only A Monster Can Allow Himself the Luxury of Seeing Things As They Are), 2005, is that she is doing a rendition of the shop windows of old Paris photographed by Eugene Atget—but in the manner of someone obsessed with the A Clockwork Orange and/or, possibly, Brazil. (I suppose I ought to acknowledge that in all of this are some submerged allusions to Minimalism.)

Setting the pop culture register aside, and focusing on what we might call the professional register, that is art history, Meckseper’s shelves, vitrines, and plinths make me think of two projects and one artist. The first project is the ‘Exhibition of Surrealist Objects’ at the Galerie Charles Ratton, Paris, May 1936. It's documented in a recent book, Surrealism and the Politics of Eros: 1938–1968 by Alice Mahon, a book which, by the way, relates in an interesting way to Just Kick It Till It Breaks (a relationship that one ought to elaborate on at some point). And the other project is Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-valise, 1935–41. Meckseper formally and conceptually borrows heavily from both projects. However, what probably intrigues me most about her work is what I am reading as a couple of weird coded references to La Boîte-en-valise. The more prominent one (at least for me) is to Air de Paris, one of the works in La Boîte-en-valise. What I am talking about, my hunch, is that this is what those clear glass objects are alluding to. You know, they look like little flower vases and Meckseper typically presents them upside down. In Untitled (Only A Monster Can Allow Himself the Luxury of Seeing Things As They Are) there are two arrangements of this sort and one of them also looks like a clear glass dildo. Der Umkerhrbare Lauf der Dinge, 2005 (one of the three works Meckseper exhibits in Just Kick It Till It Breaks), a work which is, by the way, not a shelf, vitrine, or a plinth and, arguably, makes no references to all that store display stuff, also features these clear glass objects. Arguing that it too alludes to Air de Paris may be a bit of a stretch but I think it still makes sense. The object probably looks more like, on the one hand, some sort of weird fountain, those weird fountain-like thingies in Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and, on the other, glass bongs and hookahs. An intriguing thought is generated if you parse this, the hookah part in particular, with the idea that it is alluding to Air de Paris (but perhaps I digress). And, the other weird coded reference to La Boîte-en-valise, one that Meckseper also regularly seems to make, is to Duchamp’s miniature reproduction of Fountain (which in the context of La Boîte-en-valise is, perhaps significantly, right side up). Meckseper’s coded allusion, in this case, occurs in terms of her rolls of toilet paper and her toilet brushes. However, it must be said that, despite all my talk of Duchamp, he is not the artist to whom Meckseper owes her greatest debt. It is, rather, the American Joseph Cornell (who was sort of a Surrealist (this “sort of…” part is important)). And I would argue this despite her sly protestations to the contrary in Modern Painters (March 2006). Perhaps we might put it this way: Cornell is Meckseper’s artistic father (and thus a proxy for her real father?)...

Saturday, March 24

Only a monster can allow himself the luxury of seeing things as they are.

E.M. Cioran, History and Utopia, translated by Richard Howard (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998)