There are two paintings, Shark
which shut down more possibilities for open and ambiguous readings of the work. Shark
features large, white text on a dark background stating “SHARK KILLS GIRL” on the left of the canvas, with an image of a large great white shark, mouth open, teeth exposed, and bound in rope to the right. Due to the strong, graphic presence of the text, this work and Planet
seem out of place with the rest of the exhibition. Planet
features a large letter P, with a rope-bound UFO flying over a treed, hilly landscape within its borders. Under the graphic P is painted in a smaller bold font LANET OF THE LOSERS. These two paintings seem like they are from an older body of work, or perhaps a new one, but they don’t appear to belong in this exhibition. Both in their graphic presence and considering possible ways to approach reading these works, they don’t fit. “SHARK KILLS GIRL” conjures a graphically violent image. It is all the more disturbing as it hangs in the same room as bound nude women. It sets a menacing tone, but not an engaging one. And I have no idea what to do with PLANET OF THE LOSERS. I mean, we obviously think of Planet of the Apes,
another 1968 film, which is a film about the self-destruction of the human race, and the repetition of its evil ways carried out by ape-men. “Losers” is put in place of “Apes”. Loser is such an open-ended slacker derision. Loser is almost as banal as “dude”, but with a negative inflection. The graphic presence of the text works overwhelm and interfere with more thorough readings of the other works.
There is an interesting connection between Atomic
While the absurd gesture of Atomic,
an atomic explosion, being bound and contained with rope is interesting and can stand on it’s own, it shares a historical moment with Marilyn.
Both icons were produced during the cold war. During an age when the apocalyptic power of atomic weaponry was being introduced to the world, so were the seeds of the sexual liberation. The image of an unabashedly nude Marilyn sprawled out on red velvet in 1949, three years before the first issue of Playboy was published, might have had a similar shock to American’s waning puritan sensibilities as the images of exploding atomic bombs. The historical thread between the two icons is highlighted with the image of the rope. Uncle Sam
could join the two works as well, as the U.S. was a key player in both late 20th
century sexual liberation and the cold war. These three icons are bound, not only by painted rope, but also by historical significance.
The project room in the gallery has eight or so paintings hanging in it. These works are images of various trees bound in rope. I suspect the imagery in these paintings might be produced entirely by the collaboration, rather than appropriated. There is an entirely different tone set in the room full of bound trees. The bondage and control implied by the rope wrapped around human figures, commodities, sausages and the energy of smashed atoms does not carry over to the trees. The rope wrapping the trees seems almost commonplace or decorative. The tree paintings are titled W1
and show different studies of each tree. I assume the trees are images of the now winter-bare trees in front of the gallery, as the wrapped trees out front bare the same title as the trees in the paintings.
Other works in the exhibition are interesting, but lose some punch in the twenty some paintings in the exhibition. The different studies of the trees might have been pared down as well. Standing in the same room with eight paintings gives the experience of standing in a small, cultivated forest, which had been decorated with rope. In attempt to look beyond the obvious depictions of female, forest, and a-bombs being held captive, and considering the title of the exhibition, Hostage,
I wonder who or what is being held hostage. If the exhibition had been titled Hostages
and not Hostage,
I would draw the obvious conclusion that the hostages spoken of in the title are the various subjects in the paintings depicted as being rope-bound, as well as the trees and Beuys sculptures in front of the gallery. Who are the abductors and for what terms will hostages be released? Money is often what is offered in exchange of the safe return of hostages, as it is for the purchase of art objects. I can read the metaphor of the financial exchange for artworks as releasing them from the captivity of the collaboration between the artists and the gallery. While the works were produced, and not abducted, it is the works themselves, which are held hostage, rather than the subjects depicted in them. The financial terms, which are negotiated for the purchase of the works, might be thought of as the ransom to release these works from their present captivity.
* The trees, Beuys sculptures, and awning in front of the gallery were bound with rope during a performance by Hasty and Wolf with The Walking Man Army,
“ a mass of faceless individuals, whose identities are completely concealed from head-to-toe in matching white and black apparel, existing only to create visual spectacles in real time/space” on Tuesday, December 16th
. Quotation taken from the press release for Hostage
by The Proposition.