This Home Décor Show Needs More Damien Hirst!

07/30/2010 11:25 AM |

I've seen better art this month than I have through a majority of the winter, a rarity to be sure. This is the off-season in the art world, which typically means shows made up of leftovers from the backroom and the ever-popular "I'm-inviting-a-bunch-of-my-friends-to-exhibit-with-me" show concept. Only occasionally do either of these approaches yield positive results, so it's good to see a departure from these summer norms.

Since two of the better shows in Chelsea will close this week, I've singled them out for review. First up on the tour is curator Olivia Shao's re-presented temporary show from PS1, The Baghdad Batteries, at David Zwirner. She adds to this a new exhibition titled The Evryali Score which responds to Baghdad through aesthetics and conceit; elements of home décor and hardware coupled with vague critiques of capitalism are carried over.

In my review of PS1's Greater New York I had a lot of positive words for the Baghdad Batteries; I liked the theme of making something out of something else, and the smart art selection didn't hurt either. This time around though, the objects are a little too small for Zwirner's large space, even if the quality of light the gallery provides is a huge improvement from the yellow educational lighting of PS1. Shao also adds a great Marcel Broodthaers to the mix: "Musée d’ Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, Section Financière (Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles, Financial Section) Gold Bar Stamped with the Image of an Eagle, 1970-71." The title is a bit of mouthful, especially since the piece is simply a gold bar placed on top of a cheap red valor pillow in a rinky-dink vitrine. The useless lock on the glass case is an amusing touch—presumably the gallery aura is repellant to petty thieves, so there's no real need to protect a piece of obvious value.

The show also includes Robert Breer's slow moving blanket made only of humble materials (aluminum foil), Mary Ellen Carroll's video projection of a burning print, and Nick Mauss's labor intensive hand made wallpaper. Mauss's papered wall looked better on the PS1 column then it does insignificantly sprawled over half a wall at Zwirner, but the flanking gallery walls at least provide a strong visual frame for the piece as the viewer walks into the space.

The Evryali Score manages the space more successfully (as it was conceived specifically for Zwirner) and has a musical element: the playable mobile of pots-turned-drums by Joe Jones. Other highlights include Laurie Parsons' Robert Gober-like sink with hairy drain, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni's lamp resembling a modern mushroom and a Joseph Strau lamp and canvas, a companion piece to a very similar construction in Baghdad Batteries. Without a background on each artist, it's a little difficult to draw all the intended curatorial connections—a trend in art I can do without—but on a superficial level I liked that most pieces continued to engage the home with minimal manipulation of the object. Nothing about this exhibition feels overstated.

Two streets up, Tanya Bonakdar's Multiple Pleasures: Functional Objects in Contemporary Art, or as I like to call it "The Most Expensive Yard Sale Ever," takes a less serious approach to home décor. The exhibition looks like a giant furniture show room—artist made tables, skateboards, and weird-looking chairs are each fashioned with hand written labels and pricing. Rob Pruitt's giant rubber tire water fountain is a favorite, as were Jessica Sofia Mitrani's tampon chandeliers. Every woman needs one of those.

My only complaint with this exhibition is that the curator, Nathalie Karg of Cumulus Studios didn't draw enough from Damien Hirst's edition website Other Criteria. Known for their star-studded artist editions of functional objects, the UK-based site sells an array of what can best be described as pricey gag gifts. Bonadkar's exhibition includes the same Cindy Sherman tea set available on Other Criteria, as well as the Jonathan Meese ceramics and an array of artist bath towels. But where are the Damien Hirst pieces? Is Multiple Pleasures too good for "Innocence Lost," a pickled sausage in a baby bottle filled with alcohol?

Both exhibitions are not without their faults—The Evryali Score being a little opaque and Pleasures maintaining just a little too much pomp for a show of its kind. I joke about the Hirst inclusion, but half-heartedly. Part of me thinks a good number of exhibitions would be better off if they took themselves just a little less seriously.