Annette Messager at Gagosian

The most recent exhibition by Annette Messager finds her deconstructing her collective oeuvre through an accruance of the motifs that have previously represented her. Dependance lndependance (1995-97) fills the room of Gagosian Gallery, employing both the scale and cavernous feel of the gallery space.

Dependancelndependance seems a complete departure from the sophisticated games between language and assemblage evident in many of her previous ereations. Whereas in earlier assemblages such as Penetration (1993 94) or Parade (1994 95) there was a tangible separation between the experience of the viewer and the drama enacted by the installation, here Messager seems to intend the complete confusion of the two. Entering the gallery, the first thing one sees is a mass of coils and nets which hold plastic bags filled with colourful masses resembling human organs or lost objects from the distant past. It is difficult to discern relative wholes within the mixture of images and objects. However there are regions dominated by a particular motif, such as headless dolls dressed in black with cotoured pencils puncturing them at every juncture, or photographs of Messager herself making childish faces. These self portraits mock nightmare images: the artist's cheeks are pushed in with tongue protruding; and her hands are pressed to her nose with eyes peering up and away, creating a medusae of harmless but alarming visual expressions. In other areas of the gallery, groups of arms and legs made from plush doll material hang communally, as if to suggest the collective uselessness or exterior appendages in a world created not by action, but its reverse. In other areas still, strings of puffy letters dangle among the nets and webs: ATTENDE...PROMESSE...SOUPÇON...CRAINTE," shouting to the viewer in angst ridden ambiguity. These vertical word hangings are the least representative of Messager's methods and the least effective.

The installation as a whole seems an unfettered miasma of et notions and reasons within the context of its title. Dependence could relate to that of a child upon its parents, or, in Messager's lexicon, to that of a lover upon the object of devotion. My first impression was that I was entering the pathways of the artist's mind, as if Messager was attempting a complete remove (hinted at in previous creations) from the physical world. Instead of composing scenes from a world of darkness, Messager has ejected herself wholeheartedly into that world, willing to accept the loss of identity it promises, along with the transcendence of consciousness. Though the form of her expression is sometimes problematic, lacking the sophistication, humour and sense of ritual evinced by previous small scale assemblages, she still creates an oppressive density of objects that, in falling, remain in collusion yet do not touch one another. Like the characters of a scroll, they unwind together as the tale is told.

C Magazine #53, May-August 1997


All My Writing So Far

Joseph Beuys essay, Junior year, Bradford College

The Cowboy Wally Show by Kyle Baker, review for Cover Arts
Jim Toia at Kim Foster, review for Cover Arts
After Andy: Soho in the Eighties by Paul Taylor, review for Cover Arts
Dionisio Blanco at Barnard Biederman Fine Art, review for Cover Arts
Petah Coyne at Laurence Miller, review for NY SoHo Arts

Art Is Where The Home Was at Foramen Magnum Gallery, exhibition catalog
Annette Messager at Gagosian, C Magazine, Toronto, Ontario, review
Jose Antonio Hernandez-Diez, review for NY SoHo Arts, review
Nancy Spero at Jack Tilton, PPOW & NY Kunsthalle, NY SoHo Arts, review
Roxy Paine at Ronald Feldman Fine Art, Zingmagazine, review

Abstraction in Process II at Artists Space, NY SoHo Arts, review
Original Scale at Apex Art, NY SoHo Arts, review
Mona Hatoum at The New Museum, NY SoHo Arts, review
Peggy Bates at Tobey Fine Arts, exhibition catalogue

Aaron Rose at Paul Kasmin, www.articlemagazine.com, review

Lisa Stefanelli at Pierogi 2000, Zingmagazine, review
Moyra Davie at American Fine Arts Co, Zingmagazine, review

On Kawara at David Zwirner, C Magazine, Toronto, Ontario, review

Erotika at Riva Gallery, exhibition catalogue
Liz-N-Val, self-published catalogue
David Henry Brown Jr at Daniel Silverstein, Zingmagazine, review
Tracy Nakayama at Modern Culture, Flash Art, Milan, review
Roe Ethridge at Andrew Kreps, Flash Art, Milan, review
Ge-Karel van der Sterren at Henry Urbach Architecture, Flash Art, Milan, review
Sandra Bermudez, NY ARTS, article

Erwin Redl at Riva Gallery, exhibition statement
Leemour Pelli at University of Central Florida, Orlando, exhibition catalogue
Terry Haggerty at Riva Gallery, exhibition statement

Sampling Identity: The Work of Carla Gannis. Pablo's Birthday, gallery catalogue
Second-Generation Ego: Diana Shpungin and Nicole Engelmann, The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, exhibition statement
PERFORMING ARTS JOURNAL Mining the Urban Divide: The Work of Matthew McCaslin

Beautiful Dreamer at Spaces Inc, Cleveland, Ohio, essay for gallery catalogue
WBURG.COM Innocence Bound: The Paintings of Mike Cockrill, 31 Grand

Peter Barrett at Ingalls & Associates, Miami, Florida, essay for gallery catalogue
Limbo Karma: The Paintings of Thomas Frontini. Lawrence Asher Gallery, essay for gallery catalogue

ART NOTES: Amanda Church at Michael Steinberg
ART NOTES: Allan McCollum at Friedrich Petzel
ART NOTES: Carroll Dunham at Gladstone
ARTICLE "On the Sixth Day"
LEAH OATES/New Photographic Work 2004-2007, "The Discursive Archeology of Space"

KU ART CENTER, Seoul, Korea: Cui XuanJi "Suspension" catalog essay

SOEMO FINE ARTS, Beijing, China: Piao Guangxie "Good Luck" catalog essay
ART QUIPS Arthur Cohen at Jack the Pelican Presents

ART NOTES The Bushwick Biennial
UMA CENTRAL GALLERY: D. Dominic Lombardi essay

OXBOW GALLERY: Claudia Sperry essay

VELLUM MAGAZINE: Marcy Brafman essay
WILLIAM BUSTA GALLERY: Thomas Frontini essay

LEAH OATES/Transitory Space 2008-2011: "Time Share"
CARTER HODGKIN "Beauty in the Vortex" catalog essay
DEE SOLIN "Color Control" catalog essay
FLASH ART: Jason Middlebrook at Dodge Gallery
ARTILLERY MAGAZINE: Hrvoje Slovenc essay
PLAYSPACE MAGAZINE: "The Catcher in the Rye"

ARTILLERY MAGAZINE: "The Low Road: The Cultural Landscape of The Bowery"
FRIEZE MAGAZINE: Dike Blair at Feature, Inc.

FRIEZE MAGAZINE: David Adamo at Untitled New York
ART QUIPS Rob Mango at Elga Wimmer
ART QUIPS Gloria Garfinkel at George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum
ART QUIPS "100 Paintings: An Artist's Life in NY City" by Rob Mango
THRESHOLDING Tom Fruin at Mike Weiss Gallery
THRESHOLDING Presenting Josh Peters
Elsie Kagan essay
Peggy Bates essay

PLAYSPACE MAGAZINE: Terry Haggerty at Sikkema Jenkins and Co
PLAYSPACE MAGAZINE: Sandra Gottlieb at NY Hall of Science
PLAYSPACE MAGAZINE: Studio Journal with Janice Caswell
PLAYSPACE MAGAZINE: Studio Journal with Dean Monogenis

RICHARD RIVERA "Out of the Dark" essay
AMY SANDS "A Beautiful Noise" essay
GRACIELA CASSEL "Into The Labyrinth" essay
ART QUIPS "Currents in Photography" at Walter Wickiser Gallery
THE GIBSON REPORT, Issue One, October: On Second Thoughts with Donna Huanca, A Reading Space with Marguerite Duras, Art Quips with Donald Moffett, John Aslanidis, etc.


Roxy Paine at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

Psilocybe cubensis Field, 1997 (detail)
2200 unique hallucinogenic mushrooms
polymer with lacquer and oil paint
4 1/4 x 328 x 5 1/3 inches

March 15-April 26, 1997
In April, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts had its second exhibition of sculptures by Roxy Paine, a young artist whose work is some of the most exciting around. It speaks to the artist's role as maker, and to the sort of making, in variety and difference, that is his provenance. Paine's work connects artmaking to the theoretical and logistical methods employed passively by the artist in creating an active art object. Paine insists that his work is about nature and its potential. This recalls Harold Rosenberg's essay "The Anxious Object," which describes how any artwork which is opaque can work off of the viewer's anxiety to suggest ideas. In Paine's case, that idea is a sense of the mode of communication being formed. This language is invented in three ways: by an attempt at the organic simulacra; an organizing of abstract aggregates; and by a mechanically repetitive action.

Poison Ivy Field (Toxicodendron radicans), 1977
poison ivy, skunk cabbage, dandelions, grasses
(cast in PETG and vinyl with lacquer and oil paint)
sticks, stones and earth in maple Plexiglas case
41 x 48 x 66 inches

The first thread of Paine's work is represented by Mushroom Field (1997) and Poison Ivy (1997). These works study the superficial and structural edifice of natural organisms. In both Mushroom Field and Poison Ivy, he assimilates the multiplicity and organic density of living matter. Both are just what they describe, images composed to as to immediately mirror the surface design of nature's own idea. Mushroom Field is set upon the floor, two thousand individual models for real life psylocybin mushrooms, each drawn out and designed with variations of color and growth patterns, as well as the wavelike pattern of the field as a whole, covering an area some ten or twenty feet in diameter. The effect is quite unsettling, of encountering these realistic lifeforms sprouting from the dead wood floor of the gallery space. It is almost hopeful in such a stance. It suggests that the gallery takes part in the in the growth of the artist, or the art in general. In Poison Ivy, the attention for detail is the same, but the approach is different. Instead of building a natural manifestation into the gallery area, he has collected living poison ivy plants and planted them inside a glassenclosed patch of ground, along with versions of the self same plants which he has fabricated.The effect is one of puzzlement, even of wonder, but a certain degree of encounter has been eliminated in placing these specimens under glass. They can no longer exert an effect upon us via their touch or proximity to us, or through our anxiety related to this particular plant.

Model Painting, 1996
polymer, mahogany case, 61 x 85 x 5 1/4 inches

Model for an Abstract Sculpture, 1997
objects cast from blister packaging and custom molds
Durham Rock Hard Water Putty, polymer, steel and auto paint
4 x 96 x 138 inches
Model Painting (1996) and Model For An Abstract Sculpture (1997) both represent a system of communication developed solely by Paine, edited and constructed like hieroglyphs. In the first, he has been able to isolate solidified flesh colored polymer brush strokes; in the second, he has accumulated various blister packs. Blister packs are part of the refuse of daily life, something which Paine has been able to utilize with regard to ideas of both positive and negative space inherent in their forms. In other words, it's initially difficult to view them as forms created to wrap around other forms. But within their model skeleton they approach a sense of anatomy, of social and political connections between shapes. Each pack then becomes a house in a town, a cell in a body, or a symbol in a system of scientific order. However, the objects accumulated with these works are neither mere simulacra nor Dadaesque mind games made flesh.The shapes of the objects, if they can be called that, whether blister pack or polymer brush stroke, suggest only the vaguest of forms, creating an inventive and playful acrostic of formal origin. Their organization is the creation of the new language being formed in us.

Paint Dipper, 1997
Steel frame, dipping vat, acrylic paint, chair and
computer controlled machinery with custom interface
and relays
124 x 99x 23 inches

Painting 17352011997, 1997
acrylic on canvas
45 x 57 x 3 1/4 inches

The third and final thread of Paine's work is represented by Paint Dipper (1997), a machine constructed to create paintings by a slow and methodical process.The canvasses hang above a vat of thick white house paint, which is timed to open and dip them down to a certain measured point every few hours over the duration of twenty four hours. It moves so slowly that rarely does the spectator actually see a painting being dipped, but as it hangs there, dripping paint off onto the machine and the floor around it completing the process for which it was built it is fusing ideas of natural formation with inorganic production, and this points out the limitation of the machine. By the manner of its manic and regular action, a process of ambiguous signification surfaces, one which can also be seen in any of the other works here, a negation of individual creation that when taken to an extreme creates a force ofjuggernaut proportions. This is the activity into which each of us falls when we try to compensate for the stultifying complexity of creative demands. Thus, Paint Dipper shows itself as eerie proof of our inability to contain or answer the complex demands of everyday life. All that the artist retains is his individual and idiosyncratic vitality. Paine's work is never dependent upon the forms invented in nature, but in forces directly supervised, and to some degree invented, by the artist. His control of them is both his freedom and ours.


David Gibson is a writer and curator native-born and bred in New York City, the New York Art World, and the greater world extending in all directions. He and Jennifer Junkermeier recently curated the exhibition “Beauty’s Burden” at The Ernest Rubenstein Gallery of the Educational Alliance. He is availlable to write essays for artist and gallery websites and catalogues.