Still Life

Morsel: Duchamp's Marzipan Arcimboldo

Like the insects drawn to the marzipan fruits and veggies in Marcel Duchamp’s late work Sculpture-morte, we too are endlessly attracted to such saccharine artifice, the all-too-real.

But are the flies in this trompe-l'œil attracted to the image of the fruit (as a viewer is to a painting) or the sweet aroma of the marzipan? And are the flies plastic or rubber—the kind used in a practical joke—or made of marzipan as well?

It seems unlikely—or worse, unsettling—that both predator and prey would be made from the same sugary substance. What form of cannibalism would that be, in which the mirage consumes itself?

Both images: Marcel Duchamp, Sculpture-morte, 1959, insects with marzipan fruit, vegetables, and bread on board-mounted paper, in glass box, 13 1/4 x 9 x 2 1/4 inches; Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Morsels are a series of brief texts—ruminations—on a single work of art. This one is un morceau pour Marcel.

On View: Sharon Core at Yancey Richardson

As she did with her still life photographs, which I included in Nature Morte, Sharon Core continues to blur the distinction between nature and artifice in her new exhibition, Understory. What initially appear to be details of a forest microcosm are actually documents of a meticulously researched and cultivated environment, created by the artist within a geodesic dome built on her Hudson Valley property. Like an environmental display at a botanical garden, Core’s “forest” is both real and fabricated—it is a living ecosystem that is controlled and isolated from external influences (though she did source insects and other natural materials from surrounding woodlands). Core used her own garden to grow plants and flowers for her earlier still life and floral arrangements, so it is no surprise that she went to such effort to create a living stage for these photographs.

Using photography to examine the still life genre, Core has previously found inspiration from artists as diverse as Raphaelle Peale and Wayne Thiebaud. Here, her chiaroscuro images loosely reference the work of Otto Marseus van Schrieck, a 17th Century Dutch painter whose depictions of thriving forest floors were rife with the type of symbolism and meditations on mortality usually found in a vanitas still life. Appropriately, the forest floor is teeming with death and decay but also rebirth. Due to their subject matter and art historical references, Core’s floral images occasionally flirted with being too beautiful, but this exhibition is very much about what lies beneath the beauty—the death and decay that enable life to thrive and keep the cycle moving.

On view through May 7

Yancey Richardson Gallery
525 W 22nd Street |  Chelsea

Top: Untitled #4, 2015, Archival pigment print, 30 x 20 inches, Ed. of 7; Bottom: Installation view with Untitled #1 and Untitled #11, Sharon Core, Understory, Yancey Richardson Gallery, NY. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

"On View" posts highlight current exhibitions featuring exhibited artists.

On View: Miranda Lichtenstein at Elizabeth Dee

For her fifth solo exhibition with Elizabeth Dee, Miranda Lichtenstein presents a photographic study of Josh Blackwell’s sculptures. Blackwell, who recycles disposable shopping bags into sculptures via ironing, stitching, cutting, and painting, functions as both muse and collaborator. The two worked together to create a sculpture that translates Blackwell’s work into a two-dimensional floor installation—a carpet of stitched and embroidered images—that is exhibited along with Lichtenstein’s vibrant, painterly photographs.

The flatness of the images and condensed layering bring to mind Lichtenstein’s “Screen Shadow” series, for which she used patterned Japanese papers to obscure and illuminate staged still lifes. Here, she uses Blackwell’s plastic bag sculptures, which she photographed in studio settings over the course of two years, as her raw material. Though the sculptures have their own distinct formal qualities, Lichtenstein uses various backdrops to create ambiguity between the sculpture and her photographic construction.

Lichtenstein, whose still life photographs I included in “Nature Morte,” frequently examines the photographic process using conventional genres and techniques. Here she is working within the tradition of photographers that have documented the work of their contemporaries. The title of the show, “more Me than mine,” combined with the repetition of the phrase “Thank You” on the shopping bags, suggest that Lichtenstein saw something in Blackwell’s work that was absent from her own. Their individual approaches come together in the collaborative floor piece, an arrangement of scanned and cut images of Blackwell’s sculptures that expands both of their practices.

On view through December 19

Elizabeth Dee
545 W 20th Street  |  Chelsea

Top and bottom: Installation views, Miranda Lichtenstein, “more Me than mine,” Elizabeth Dee, NY. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

"On View" posts highlight current exhibitions featuring exhibited artists.


On View: Daniel Gordon at Pioneer Works

You can see Daniel Gordon's work in the current show at Pioneer Works, Under Construction – New Positions in American Photography, a collaboration with FOAM (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam). Included in the show is the title piece from Shadows and Pears, our exhibition at The Horticultural Society of New York.

The exhibition focuses on artists that are reassessing photography for our digital age, with a specific focus on those who use manipulations and interventions, whether digital or physical, to re-contextualize imagery.

In an article for Frieze on the recent development towards “constructed photography,” Aaron Schuman describes Gordon’s work as:

[...] a new vision of our contemporary visual landscape: one in which photographic representations, rather than objects themselves, are the subject of composition and contemplation; one where images have become symbiotic with, rather than symbolic of, the physical world itself.*

The exhibition, which also features works by Joshua Citarella, Jessica Eaton, Matthew Leifheit & Cynthia Talmadge, Matt Lipps, Matthew Porter, Sara Cwynar, Kate Steciw and Sara VanDerBeek, is on view through April 26.

Under Construction @ Pioneer Works
159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn (Red Hook)

Daniel Gordon,  Shadows and Pears , 2012.

Daniel Gordon, Shadows and Pears, 2012.

*Schuman, Aaron. “Construction Sight.” Frieze, April 2015, p. 118.