Monday, April 17, 2006

Artist of the Week (04/17/06)

As a gallerist, there are times when you know immediately you want to exhibit something. The idea of how great that work will look in your space is overwhelming and instant. It's happened to me a few times now, but one of the the first was the day I walked into the studio of Brooklyn artist JoAnne Carson. Plus Ultra was a very small space at the time (yes, smaller than it is now, you sizists), but I knew it was the perfect exhibition space for "Bouquet," JoAnne's wonderful, giant sculpture of flowers, imagined and real, combined in one fantastic bush. Roberta Smith described the way it looked in our space this way:

The squarish space at Plus Ultra is small, even by Williamsburg standards, but it is the perfect setting for JoAnne Carson's ''Bouquet,'' which resembles a rose tree infested by several other species of plant, or a giant dyed-flower corsage in a roomy box. All the blooms are big, made of pale turquoise fabric, and most seem anatomically correct right down to the leaves and stamen. Even the most botanicallychallenged will recognize day lilies, morning glories, sunflowers and cherry blossoms.

But several are completely fictitious, like the large daisy with an eye of lilacs; and a few display mildly sinister malformations. The work's unapologetic decorativeness recalls the late 1970's work of artists like Robert Kushner and Ree Morton. Its fragility and distorted scale give it the giddy beauty of glass flowers or some of Cy Twombly's more attenuated sculptures.

Perhaps a result of grafting run amok or gardening with steroids, perhaps a comment on genetic engineering, ''Bouquet'' might also be a metaphor for social tolerance and coexistence: it takes all kinds

I've scoured my files for a good installation shot in the old space, but can't find one. Here's one of the entire piece in JoAnne's studio though: JoAnne Carson, Bouqet, 2001, aqua resin, thermaplastic, 105" x 84" (image from Albany SUNY Art Department website)

JoAnne's sculptures and drawings seem both fantastic and sinister at the same time. Part of this sensation is due to their scale---the blooms and otherwise delightful objects dwarfing the viewer's own head--but part of it is JoAnne's observation about a particularly curious paradox, described this way on the website for Claire Oliver's gallery (where JoAnne has a two-person exhibition opening this Thursday):

JoAnne Carson’s works reflect society’s propensity to believe concurrently in scientific fact and metaphysical alchemy. In a world where it is possible to make plastic from corn, and human proteins have been produced in genetically modified rubber plants, what is “real” transcends the fantastic in sheer implausibility.

Although seemingly rooted in reality and organic growth, Carson’s floral creations—made from aqua resin, thermoplastic and fiberglass—rise up to nine feet in height and threaten to walk the earth on Tim Burton-esque animal legs. When studied by the critical observer, the flowers themselves have something slightly unnerving about them, the veins of the large, flesh-like flowers protrude instead of recede, as do those of an animal.
Here's an image of the major piece in that upcoming exhibition: JoAnne Carson, Puppet's Revenge, Thermoplastic, fiberglass, metal leaf, paint, 106" x 85" x 85" (image from Claire Oliver Gallery website)

and a detail of the same piece:

As an artist and teacher, JoAnne is an incredibly generous person. I've become friends with her and her husband, the superb painter Jim Butler, and am continuously impressed with how thoughtful and giving they both are. To enter JoAnne's studio, though, is to have a whole series of paradoxes swirl you into a state of wonder. No object or material is exactly how it appears, and that extends to the artist herself, whose outwardly gentle and calm appearance reveals nothing of the blow-torch welding, pipe-bending, master craftswoman who continuously shocks the staff at the hardware stores where she buys her art supplies, including one man who had alarmingly questioned which pipe in her home she wanted to cut through when she once sought certain tools. Here's one of JoAnne's sculptures I had seen up-close in her studio but which my eyes still can't believe isn't made from wood: JoAnne Carson, Wood Nymph, Fiberglass, resin, cloth, plaster, oil paint, 108" x 96" x 34" (from the Claire Oliver Gallery website)

JoAnne's more recent sculptures seem even more Tim Burton or Willy Wonka-esque in their whimsy and brilliant palettes. Here's another: JoAnne Carson, Sprout, Thermoplastic, fiberglass, rayon flock, 58" x 42" x 35" (image from the Claire Oliver Gallery

here's a detail of the same piece.

Don't miss her upcoming show. This work is even more delightful in person.


Anonymous bambino said...

loveeeeeeeeeeeee ittttttt

4/17/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

Yikes. Looks like the Takashi Murikami Collection for Grandma's house in Patchougue. The ones with monochromatic palettes are way better. No comment on the wood nymph.

4/17/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger patsplat said...

quite lovely!

4/17/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I personally think that many works of art look better in smaller spaces -- especially work that is playing with scale.
(Don't get me started on how wrong MoMA was to hang Monet's Waterlilies in their oversized lobby.)

4/17/2006 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger chrisjag said...

Wow! Stunning. Beautiful/creepy is right. I can't wait to see these in person.

4/18/2006 12:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the grandma thing seeping down, Edna
--malaise to candy.
The plumbing story is great too. I read E visualizing hard labour, an exacting tough touch, possibly a wrench in hand. There was definitely a full image of soiled thighs. Then within a period-mark a cleave to 'carving'. The plunger just dropped out of the plume.

Surely, though, Carson knows what she does!
Enchanting the darker, seedier, pop M'enage of gifts, spoils, soft memory, and labor.
This is a passionate and focused idea. That's what counts for an exhibition.

4/18/2006 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous said...

I really like the biomorphic aspect of the work. I wish I was able to see the work in person.

4/18/2006 10:02:00 AM  

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