Specters of Absurdity: The Sculptures of Daniel Giordano at Hofstra University

Daniel Giordano, installation view, Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. Courtesy of the artist and Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University.

 

*This article was written before the shutdown. Some exhibitions may not be open to the public at this point...

Daniel Giordano

Hofstra University, Rosenberg Gallery

January 29 - March 1, 2020

By RAPHY SARKISSIAN, March 2020

Here is a rather long yet partial list of the diverse mediums, unconventional materials and ubiquitous objects that Daniel Giordano has either essentially shaped, highly modified or primarily appropriated in order to generate the ten perplexing sculptural objects of his exhibition titled Hermetic Perversions: A Charming Night with Vicki Vermicelli held at the compact exhibition space of Rosenberg Gallery at Hofstra University: copper, Tang drink mix, marble, plastic wrap, epoxy, wire hanger, enamel, Tiger Balm, glazed ceramic, racquet tape, steel, sparklers, cable ties, contact lens, glass, wood, Nestquick Strawberry Powder, sneaker sole, catfish leather, nail polish, copper mesh, bison, silicon, phosphorescent acrylic, butterfly wings, bodily fluids, wax, gold leaf, canned tomatoes, mascarpone.

Daniel Giordano, installation view, Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. Courtesy of the artist and Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University.

Infused with art-historical references, undeniable sense of humor and playfulness on the edge of absurdity, five of the partly abstract and partly representational Neo-Dadaesque sculptures are freestanding while the other five are mounted on the walls of the gallery. Inasmuch as most of these eccentric objects of Giordano incite body parts, they may concurrently omit such associations, for the boundaries between form and formlessness have been rendered decidedly impalpable.

Daniel Giordano, Cannoli (O, Pygar!), 2016-20. Mixed media, 10 by 2.5 by 14.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University.

Signifying Giordano’s alter ego, Vicki Vermicelli is partly derived from the name of Vicki Clothing Company founded by the artist’s paternal grandfather in Newburgh as a ladies’ coat manufacturing enterprise and operated productively until 1996. Currently the space of that derelict factory serves as the artist’s studio. The cacophony of materials deployed within these sculptures mirror Giordano’s working space, along with a methodology of reconfiguring a plethora of debris through customary and contemporary artistic mediums so as to generate bewildering assemblages that are all but orthodox. Having integrated society’s rubbish with entirely original glazed ceramic, Cannoli (O, Pygar!) for instance resourcefully sabotages the commodification of the art object, as the wire hanger, gasket, Tang drink mix and catfish leather within it seem to demand a democratization of the ubiquitous and rare, of obsolescence and novelty, of high art and banality.

Daniel Giordano, Mon Calamari II (detail), 2016-20. Mixed media, 53 by 15 by 16 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University.

Mon Calamari II of Giordano utilizes a stool as a pedestal upon which a hodgepodge of materials and forms brings together pure abstraction, the modified readymade and representation, tactfully incorporating the legacies of originality and appropriation. At once a demonstration of Giordano’s technical versatility with sculptural materials and patent commitment to experimentation, Mon Calamari II unfolds its bemusing visual narrative of a readymade stool acting as a pedestal for strikingly abstract forms cast in epoxy that in turn act as successive pedestals for highly expressive and semi-abstract formation of a glazed-ceramic lower torso with a pair of legs oriented upward, simulating a sense of rapture through a bizarre ascension toward a phantasmagoric heaven. 

While the readymade pedestal that has been modified unquestionably recalls Marcel Duchamp’s legendary Bicycle Wheel (1913 original lost, 1964 replica at the Museum of Modern Art, New York), this sculpture of Giordano also evokes the various freestanding assemblages of Robert Rauschenberg, such as his Odalisk of 1955/58 that is currently housed at Museum Ludwig in Cologne. Whereas Rauschenberg’s work incorporates the electric light and taxidermy rooster, Giordano has made use of a sneaker sole and butterflies in his assemblage. Yet the glazed ceramic that constitutes the uppermost section of the sculpture representing the fractional torso and legs marks the artist’s insistence on morphing singularity of form and the readymade object, blurring the boundary between the everyday world and the platform of high art. Through his integration of superb mediums of art and waste materials of the body, the practice of Giordano interweaves the sublimity of form and its contrary—the repulsive.

Daniel Giordano, Cannoli (Careless Whisper III) (detail), 2016-18. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist and Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University.

These sculptures of Giordano render rational discourse suspect. Yet irrational interpretation of this series would be equally questionable. Therefore how are we to read these assemblages of fragments of disposable objects, now rarified through the artist’s singular definitions of form that insist on the body yet negate it through prosaic objects at once, embracing pleasure and repulsion simultaneously? These discordant materials and forms seem to be presenting pleasure and repulsion as concurrent conditions, resonating Dada’s anti-art ideologies that would equate beauty with what society deemed as madness.

In Madness and Civilisation, Michel Foucault ruminates on art in relation to madness by writing, “madness is precisely the absence of the work of art… The moment when, together, the work of art and madness are born and fulfilled is the beginning of the time when the world finds itself arraigned by that work of art and responsible before it for what it is. Ruse and new triumph of madness: the world that thought to measure and justify madness through psychology must justify itself before madness, since in its struggles and agonies it measures itself by the excess of works like those of Nietzsche, of Van Gogh, of Artaud.” Provoking Antonin Artaud’s lifetime undertaking that insisted on the undeniable presence of infantilism as a means of short-circuiting the social machinery of repression, these sculptures of Giordano dissimulate the rejection of art through its very presence, as if consenting to the status quo of the art market while denunciating its inescapable commodification and commercialism. Hermetic Perversions: A Charming Night with Vicki Vermicelli jocularly compels us to confront the aporia of our late capitalist democracy. WM

Note

For a compelling discussion of Antonin Artaud’s life and work, see Ronald Hayman, Artaud and After (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), esp. pp. 144-62. The above citation of Foucault is from Hayman, p. 159. See also Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (London: Tavistock Publications, 1967).

Thumbnail credit: Daniel Giordano, installation view (left); the artist next to My Naked Fugitive, 2019-20 (right), Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. Courtesy of the artist and Rosenberg Gallery, Hofstra University..

 

Raphy Sarkissian

Raphy Sarkissian is an artist, writer, curator and art historian currently teaching theory and praxis at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He received his MA from New York University and an MFA from SVA. Sarkissian lives and works in New York and can be followed on Instagram @raphy_sarkisssian.

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