In companion with the exhibition: TEXTURE.TXT

On Three Works from Texture.TXT
by Stacie Vos and Jeffrey Stuker

My Rack

Leeza Meksin"s installation, My Rack, sets the stage for a series of reversed offers. The title plays upon the slang term, promising a display of another kind, but instead introduces a physical, double-rack overflowing with spandex. These loose cuts of fabric, too, take away what they give to a desirous eye, covering skin while hugging the body so tight as to put certain eroticized areas on display. In spandex, the body is bound at the same time as it seems to be sensuously enhanced. Meksin"s assortment of pieces, hidden behind her rack, proves to be another series of misgivings.


In one of the paintings the artist refers to as “puffy and bound,” finger-sized holes are spread apart, being opened at the same time that they are pulled snug to the canvas, bound by cords and pieces of yarn. The artificial material used in these pieces-neoprene soaked in polymer, dyed, painted or both - combined with the allure of the shine these materials produce, itself consists of another act of seduction. The painting is at once enticing and toxic.


Another piece depicts a hand coming out of the wall holding one of Meksin"s “douche bags,” or “body-inspired totes.” The hand cannot touch the body parts and hold them out for display at the same time. This image evokes a paradox central to this work: visual pleasure and sensuous contact are at odds.


A pregnant mannequin wears a neon blue t-shirt upon which another contradictory statement is written: “keep away my favorite.” Broken into two halves, this line begins negatively and moves toward the positive. Is it saying “Keep away from my favorite?” (As in, don"t look behind the rack?) Or, is it saying, “Keep away, you are my favorite,” evoking the subtle message of desire as danger?


Meksin"s work is consistently about desire as a menace to society, like a purse wrapped in a harness meant for a strap-on, or balls hanging from a building in Philadelphia, or a pregnant belly - the quintessential marker of the result of sexual desire, busting out of a shirt.


The last part of Meksin"s display is her own private collection of clippings from her studio wall: women without faces or faces behind bars; a single eye; legs dangling from the seat of a chair, no body attached; a woman"s mouth, shoulders, and breast, her nipples covered while the flesh gets plumper.

After a prolonged look at Meksin"s work the following question circles in a viewer"s thoughts: to what extent are women complicit in their own objectification, or even desirous of the state of affairs that reduces people into things. “My rack,” announced by a female artist, demands that the viewer consider to what extent they are complicit in a desire that cuts people into parts, that can touch but not hold on to much for long.

Sandwichman"s Riddle

C L O W N  P A R T Y reads an impromptu poster attached by pins to what looks to be a shipping pallet turned on its side, painted white. This pallet or shipping crate is attached by four 1"X4" planks to a makeshift square, which bears some resemblance to another kind of crate, perhaps one once used for milk bottles.  This non-functional or fictional milkman"s crate is in turn attached to one final wooden structure—this one, looking more like it might have been taken from a working, contemporary sidewalk store display, finely painted in a color of blue fashionable in commercial decor in recent years. In the spirit of parity—if not parody—a second hand-written poster is pinned to this blue end of David Humphrey"s sculptural contribution to the exhibition Texture.TXT. This poster reads:                                    

D O G  B E H I N D  B A R S. 


One could say that the posters attached to Humphrey"s sculpture describe estranged interactions of people and beasts, or people as beasts. Imagine if you will: at a party of clowns the intimacy and contact of people as people is superseded by the stimulus of painted skin, hair that"s not hair, glitter-tears, and, all around expressions that don"t change. A "dog behind bars," might refer to the reach of the Law into canine affairs—or it might refer, by metonymic displacement, to a person in trouble—usually a middle-class husband who has angered his middle-class wife—a man who has gone beyond the trouble designated by the phrase "being in the doghouse.” Here a cliché of bourgeois resentment is taken to its extreme: this man is a dog behind bars. Apart from the parallelism of the two posters, Humphrey"s structure denies the simple logic of symmetry and communication. If physically it is a compromised structure, then linguistically, it is a compromising one. 


A viewer who finds her thoughts tottering between these two attached placards, who imagines herself sliding between these two instantiations of text, might say that her experience here is defined as a festival of the inorganic on one side, and, on the other, an estranged intimacy.  It is for this reason that Humphrey’s structure might remind her of another, once much more common method of situating a body between two displays of text on wooden planks: the "sandwich-boards" once commonly worn as double-sided advertising placards. Clearly Humphrey’s "sandwich-board" is too unwieldy to be comfortably worn in the streets. Here though, the double-sided placard poses a riddle instead of communicates an advertiser"s message: who lives as a dog behind bars at a party run by clowns?

Historic Sites Blow

In Mary Reid Kelley"s contribution to Texture.TXT. the viewer is presented with a slim sentence fragment that floats a third of the way up the work on paper. It reads:              


Historic Sites

            blow the Dead

At first this sentence fragment comes across as a simple stone rubbing, showing the granulated texture of graphite on paper that is common to artists, historians, and distant family members creating an imprint of a monument wall, a tombstone, or placard. And indeed, the artist did trace these letters in Belgium while visiting a monument dedicated to the surgeon-poet-soldier John McCrae, who wrote the Poem "In Flanders Fields" -itself a monument to the first World War.


But the monumentalization of already monumental events stops here. What at first appears to be a straight-forward tracing of an inscription on the memorial—a piece of paper that might function as a souvenir of sorts—quickly  reveals itself to make little sense in the context of monuments and the official historical discourses inscribed on them. This is because, through a kind of pre-mechanical montage technique, Reid Kelly sutures together disparate signifiers in which indirect meaning radiates. She shifts her tracing activity from the main body of the poem at the memorial, over to a second interpretive text also present at the memorial. "Historic Sites" is taken from the accompanying interpretive text, while "blow the Dead" is taken from the body of the poem engraved on the monument itself.


What the viewer is left with might be interpreted as an allegorical statement about monuments and the dead they supposedly redeem. If we interpret "blow" in the sense of "to assault" or “to scatter,” we are prompted to consider that official histories, their monuments and their discourses, assault the dead a second time, by consigning their fleeting remembrance to the status of a thing, and claiming thereupon that the suffering they endured had a final meaning.


When considering recent projects of Reid Kelley, “Historic Sites blow the Dead” takes on yet another possible meaning: some of the dead never make it to the historic site at all. Instead, they are “blown off,” like a bad date. Some such people might be a munitions worker, amorous of a soldier who gave her the clap; 1 a nurse who ministered to war-ravaged flesh 2; or a Belgian prostitute in dialogue with a German soldier.3 Reid Kelley gives voice to those—often female—whose  names are not inscribed on monuments, the historical figures who sacrifice themselves in war time but who are only present as a space between official monuments, or as a conspicuous lack on their surfaces.

writing index

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