Only three works made up this show: a sculpture and a photograph by the collaborative team of Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg, and a piece comprising three identical objects by Cory McCorkle.
Over the last few years, Hanson and Sonnenberg have been producing, among other things, a series of figurative sculptures which are faithful little portraits (full body) of big modernist figures or their substitutes. Pinched out of creative modelling compound and baked in the oven, each piece targets a paradoxical piece or compromising aspect of that figure's historical persona. In Helen Lenchen Demuth, Karl Marx's Maid (1993), for example, it is the way that the fact that Marx had a maid colours his reputation as a voice of the proletariat. Somewhere between Rodin's Balzac and Nauman's Fountain, there is a conditional reverence in these small insider-referenced monuments, or at least in the one shown here Show & Tell (Naked) (1996).
By making the great big Alexander Calder only ten inches high, and giving him one of his own characteristic mobiles of bright red guitar picks to hold, he becomes a kid bringing his science project to school, with eager expectation of praise and motherly encouragement. What we have come to expect to find hanging or towering above us in hallowed halls or public plazas has been returned to the scale and status of a toy, on a par with Calder's early and best work, Circus (1927). Rendering that lion of a man naked chubby and pale pinkish, with a little tuft of dark pubic hair only makes him cuter, but not quite kitsch. Clearly this man's bubble has been popped, but Calder
doesn't seem to mind. There is something good-natured about the representational approach; it doesn't resort to Koons-like degradation, but aims for accessibility in a slightly comic vein, while the surface retains the texture of fingers working. The material modelling compound makes sense because it's quick and easy and you don't need a kiln. It's a Toys-R-Us version of the kind of traditional sculptural material that Calder, as the long-running, century-spanning, Constructivist sculptor handling space and relationships, rejected in defiance of mass and weight (at the same time that his body famously accumulated it).
The playfulness of Hanson and Sonnenberg's clay figures is put in context by a parallel series of photographic works documenting the living spaces that exist between events. Between Show & Tell and Bigger Show & Tell (1996), depicts a table with a casual centrepiece of flowers and two chairs illuminated by an easy, slanting light. To either side, are the cut-off edges of two plinths and the pairs of elbows, heels, ears and hips of two other Hanson and Sonnenberg sculptures: Show & Tell (1996) and Bigger Show & Tell (1996), also of Calder, but clothed and in slightly different scales. Hanson and Sonnenberg's ongoing projects inhabit and investigate the serious theoretical/political spaces of De Certeau, DeBord, LeFebvre and others addressing daily life; like their figure Erik Satie waves frantically to the audience, directing them away from the work, urging them to go about their business (1993). Between Show & Tell and Bigger Show & Tell so clearly and simply redirects our attention to lived experience, to the table as the place for eating and talking, to what happens between art and art while acknowledging and accepting the punctuations that the objects provide. It also addresses the structure of the exhibition, asking us to pay attention not only to the works in the show but to what might happen in-between them.
To facilitate another kind of presentness, Corey McCorkle provided For a Greater Velocity Towards Grace (1996), three curled and laminated wooden floor pieces guaranteed to mould and keep you securely in the lotus position. Playing on the subtle difference between a discipline exerted by external force versus the force of inner will, this piece has been designed to assist the user in the difficult process of spiritual growth just like McCorkle's Inner Workout videotape (1995). This 33 minute sequence of psychedelically-coloured, mandala-like images, is meant to cleanse your chakras on a daily basis. The wooden body moulds are lovely objects, organic shapes reminiscent of abstract sculpture as well as the spare and natural look of Scandinavian design, so popular with the 'spiritual' set. But McCorkle's work is two-sided and not simply parodic: by choosing to focus on attempts to reach spiritual enlightenment, he promotes it as an issue worth considering. How long since the spirit has been allowed into art? His means are curved, critical and indirect, but the subject is, nevertheless, transcendence.
It was surprising to find in this little storefront space work that was simultaneously so accessible and so conceptually sound. Or maybe the two qualities necessitate each other more and more, as I have less and less patience for work that hides its theoretical premises behind veils and feints.