Whitehot Magazine

February 2008, Richard Patterson @ Timothy Taylor Gallery

   Richard Patterson, Black Narcissus/Ellwood, L-word: Culture Station (Zipper) 1B, 2007
 Maple plywood, aluminium and motorcycle
 96 x 84 x 156 in. / 243.8 x 213.4 x 396.2 cm
 Courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
 Copyright: Richard Patterson, 2008

Timothy Taylor Gallery
Richard Patterson
February 6 through March 15, 2008

Black Narcissus/Ellwood, L-word: Culture Station (Zipper) 1B is composed of rectilinear, maple plywood planes and aluminium plates that intersect to create an architectural space. This space is articulated, by printed imagery and painted brushstrokes on aluminium panels, which either lean or lie against the wood. At one end of the work and partially visible from different angles sits a 1965 Triumph T120C motorcycle.

Black Narcissus is presented alone in the gallery space as it belongs to a category of works of art that requires to be thoroughly explored from different sides, preferably without interference from surrounding works. From each angle, the white walls of the gallery space become an integral part of the composition, as they break the rhythm set by the alternation of the pale brown plywood and the cool silver of the aluminium.

To those familiar with Patterson’s body of work, references to his experimentation with architectural and painting space will be clearly recognizable. The last section of the work’s convoluted title, Culture Station (Zipper) 1B, is in fact a direct reference to the homonymous painting produced by Patterson in 1995. The title of the work is composed of a number of cultural allusions; Black Narcissus references the 1947 film of the same title by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, a sumptuous and extravagant story of repression, sexual awakening and temptation. Ellwood is an homage to the colourful legacy of the American mid-century architect, Craig Ellwood, and L-word refers to the 2003 American television series of the same name.

A Post-Minimalist work exuding Postmodernist mischievousness and exploiting the seductive means of free-association; Black Narcissus demands attention because of its formal and contextual presence. The architectural combination of plywood and aluminium panels forces the viewer to explore every side of the structure. This process of discovery simultaneously exposes different textures alongside a scattering of disconnected narrative fragments delivered through a range of traditional and less artistically orthodox media.

The encounter with the work reveals the essential structural role played by the plywood whilst simultaneously exposing the signifying fragments presented by the aluminium panels. Each of these offers a range of different solutions, mixing discordant imagery including a soft-porn clinch of three women alongside an image of a 1969 Porsche; a semi-naked self-portrait of the artist partially clothed in a Mariachi costume contemplating his own work; Bellini's Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan surrounded by breasts whilst still impassible in its painterly-rigorous elegance. Some panels are covered in oil paint of different colours, a trademark of Patterson’s work and a strong reference of the realm of material gestures.

The further the structure is explored the more one feels compelled to connect the obscure fragments of narrative to each other and moreover to the motorcycle enigmatically parked in the middle of the work. Once all narrative segments are combined together and the motorbike is placed within context, a number of sexual references surface with increasing consistency, partaking in the definition of a range of sexual allusions. It could be argued that, in this case, the sexual realm evoked here is one of an entirely male-heterosexual nature where views of an objectified world are contained between the textural extremes of plywood and aluminum as they are ventriloquised by the explicit and heterogeneous imagery of contemporary popular culture.

Giovanni Aloi

 Giovanni Aloi is an art historian in modern and contemporary art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sotheby’s Institute of Art New York and London, and Tate Galleries. He has curated art projects involving photography and the moving image is a BBC radio contributor, and his work has been translated into many languages. Aloi is Editor in Chief of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture www.antennae.org.uk.

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