MOUNDS OF SUGARY SACCHARINE PINK PAINT4/03/10
Drowning in little multicolored candy hearts, a mouth strains to reach the sugary sweetness in a waterlogged space. Empty glasses perch on a silver platter, deserted with pink sugar circles. Kate Brandt, the severe curator prowls along with a rag of long pink finger trails, tracing critique marks. Kitty corner sits a pillowy doughnut. “La la la..” spews from a monitor with stuttering images: glitter flickers and a crazed teeny bopper heaped in cut out hearts. White canvas rectangles form a pattern of finger carved commentary on the painted title wall.
Brandt’s persona is stunningly autocratic as she saunters past the crowd with her coined pigment: “Kate Brandt Pink,” reminiscent of “Yves Klein Blue.” Viewers quickly relocate as she gazes over one pink glazed surface after another. Some follow Brandt as she assesses each work. Others watch timidly in the distance staring with faces of pink nausea.
|Kate Brandt Pink, Photo Credit: April Heding|
Paintings, prints, videos, and photographs exude evidence of performative action.
Anna Helgeson exhibits the remnants of a beauty parlor performance. White powder cracks over tanned skin, a piled Elizabethan wig rests on innumerable curls to meet the powder line. Eventually the performer moves from her resting place into a towering pedicure chair. Helgeson poses while she gets pink polished in “Whitney Goes Pink.” In another work, Sarah Holden presents her installation process as the performative action. Holden’s video plays below strung words forming a dialectical relationship between action and product. Delicate garland words hang like popcorn strings in an air of sweet virginal idealism. Corsets are employed as proudly cliché symbols.
|Walk This Way, Kate Gilmore, Photo courtesy of the artist.|
A handful of exceptional works balance the sugary pink sweetness of other works within the exhibition.
Kate Gilmore’s video acts as a counter to the saccharine pink, as she vigorously pounds on a self constructed enclosure. The artist is sandwiched between two stretches of freshly filled drywall. Gilmore’s heel impales the grey to form a hole that grows with each robust strike. Eventually the structure is broken and the hole of a previous adversary or wall is revealed.
Reminiscent of Vito Acconci, Richard Mutz’s performance video is clearly titled “Blush.” Mutz rubs his cheeks from the top of his bone down and then outward, as the pressure of his fingertips leaves traces of flushed skin that quietly fade. Blush, the compressed powder used by many as makeup, is applied in a similar manner. The artist statement is composed solely through multiple definitions of the word that is reflexive of the action. Blushing is a revealing action that enhances the venerability of an already susceptible face covered in a subtle blue shadow or possibly even bruises that document endurance.
In an arrogant gesture Yves Klein patented a specially crafted blue pigment which Brandt borrowed from in order to build the conceptual premise of the exhibition. The ambitious nature of this exhibition is impressive. Kate Brandt fostered an idea with a heavy art historical backing, did her research and then constructed a show with a range of artists from emerging to well established. The young curator examined what it means to be a performance artist. Is it an impossibility to take on a specific institutional role (curator, preparator, student) and avoid performing within that construction? Yet the objects that she adopts (a copy of art form from 1988 with pink bunnies on the cover, pink Pollock splatters and an artificially pink spiral jetty, etc.) are unconvincingly crafted and consequently shatter the authoritarian air. Although Brandt consciously choose a specific pink, the color was not consistent throughout the exhibition, discrediting her dogmatic premise.
Brandt’s unwillingness to take a true curatorial role and impose editing was not apparent. A handful of artists choose to make work tailored to the exhibition (Franko B and Heather Warren Crow, among others) but most choose to use a generic off the shelf pink. It seems impossible for loose connections to be sustained through a color, especially an inconsistent hue. Critiquing the methods of a prominent artist through exaggeration is an effective way to raise broad questions for the audience to grapple with. However, in order for the idea to be fulfilled, the curator must be willing to act as the administrator. Timid gestures stand as invalidating contradictions.
Brandt’s possessive action of patenting a specific color and claiming the work under that pigment as her own is the strongest idea present within the exhibition. Brandt talked about her work at a lecture in the Union Gallery on March 10. Her persona was not intact for the event. Panel discussions often serve as opportunities for curators to clarify their premise, editing process, and organizational tactics. When I sat in front of Brandt to find her welcoming smile and open eyes as opposed to her barbed persona, I began to further question the ill considered details within the show. Why was the dogmatic curator not occupying the throne of her own show? When does the performance end? Brandt is a curator and consequently, a co-collaborator. The final exhibition was her overarching piece that was left incomplete by the curator’s lack of presence. Brandt’s willingness to use her hand to fully interact with the pigment fulfilled the audacity that was lacking, but only to a degree. “Kate Brandt Pink” mimics Klein’s gesture; her statement simultaneously embodies and mocks the concept of artistic celebrity, without fully embracing the power that it holds.
Some galleries act as institutions with pedantic rules that use artists as poppets. Curators are the ringmasters of the mechanism, shaping each element to meet their specific goals rather than adapt to the artists. Other galleries are structured to cater and coddle each artist to meet their needs. Brandt seemed to be committed to the former structure when she was engrossed within her persona. Yet, while scanning the exhibition, it seems obvious that her curatorial choices were nebulous and stifled. She demanded that artists use “Kate Brandt Pink,” a rule from which most strayed. In a lecture, Brandt emphasized that she “respects the individual artists” and that she would not claim their work as her own. However, Yves Klein embraced the arrogance of his statement. He was always performing and did not compromise under the social weight of etiquette.
|Donut, by Kimberly Brandt, Photo courtesy of the artist.|
“Kate Brandt Pink” raised critical questions about the relationship between objects and performance art.
Can an object fulfill the requirements of performance art (or those that have been established surrounding the body, the audience’s rules of interaction etc.)? Even if it is understood that Brandt’s commentary is part of the art, is it necessary that the statements are scribed on canvas? Obviously it is impossible to detach a human interaction from a tactile object, so this theory could be applicable to all art objects. If so, where does artistic intention enter into the conversation?
Although I feel that vital details within the exhibition were ill considered, the premise of the exhibition is promising. Those who do not dismiss the show solely on the vomitous color will most likely find that “Kate Brandt Pink” raises vital questions about presentation modes and performance art, art historical icons, institutional stereotypes, the conceptual goals of the curator versus those of the artist, among others. This is not an exhibition that can be easily swept aside, as the title wall states: “Brandt, don’t forget that name.”