Rook & Raven presents its inaugural exhibition of 2015, a solo show by artist Corinne Felgate titled ‘Bigger Than The Both of Us (MoMA)’, a solo exhibition comprised of two new installations, Bigger than the Both of Us (MoMA) and Studio X Y Z, works shaped by the artist’s ongoing research into our collective relationship with the man-made environment, and how society’s perception of the manufacturing industry becomes an existential issue.
When entering the white cube space of Rook & Raven, you are met with the sight of a collection of Mondrian’s – or are you? The exhibition is a reproduction of the Piet Mondrian room at the Museum of Modern Art New York – but with a twist – Felgate’s re-created Modrian’s are made with glitter. The artist has created a life-size copy of every one of Piet Mondrian’s geometric compositions housed at MoMa, except it is as if the Dutch master had decided to travel to 21st century London, and transform his paintings from geometric works that respond to early industrialisation, into a shallow collection of commodified images, where Mondrian’s line is intentionally suffused with a childlike hand. Resulting in works more in line with empty high street consumerism than Modernist masterpiece.
The installation Studio X Y Z, which is next to Felgate’s Mondrian installation, is a response to the phenomenon of China’s artists’ villages where many of the artists spend a lifetime mass-producing just one work. Within the installation the viewer finds the remnants of the materials used to create the artist’s glitter Mondrian’s. A factory that is more disposable fashion than Andy Warhol.
The work is about the nature of image saturation, where we exist in a world that is populated with a far higher degree of cheap ‘knock-offs’ than it is with individual masterpieces. As the artist states that she became obsessed with the power and also audacity of the act of replicating an artist’s entire body of work, and how it could be possible to appropriate the most appropriated artist of all time.
It seems that appropriation is very much in the forefront of art world thinking at the moment, we have the recent conviction of artist Luc Tuymans found guilty of copyright infringement after losing a legal battle over the alleged plagiarism, over an image he snapped with his iPhone and turned into a painting, and the artist Jeff Koons recently suffered a similar plight. So the artist is not only reflecting trends in art but, unfortunate trends in the behaviour towards it.
Felgate destroys Mondrian’s original associations; instead employing the emptiness of the consumer image, art becoming detached from its origins. We expect Mondrian to have a fine art context – to have greater meaning. But in the artist’s work it has less depth than the primary source. Felgate creates with minimal investment; it is an instant re-creation, re-contextualisation of another artist’s work, and serves to remind us of the viral nature of the image in the 21st century.
The artist’s ‘Re-painted’ Mondrian’s are perpetually balanced between a shallowness, or lightness, and the potential for depth and a serious dialectic of the original works, now lost to the context of commodification. Felgate is artist as ‘art fan and seduced consumer’, Baudrillard posits the argument that mass media has neutralised reality in a series of stages, at first reflecting, then masking, and finally substituting itself for reality.
The artist’s glitter Mondrian’s are a form of simulacrum. ‘Modernity is defined by the power of the simulacrum. The artificial and the simulacrum are not the same thing. They are even opposed to each other. The artificial is always a copy of a copy, which should be pushed to the point where it changes its nature and is reversed into the simulacrum’. This is the process of Pop Art; to take the images of popular culture and make them simulacrum. In that Fegate’s ‘Pop Art’ Mondrian’s are a fascinating juxtaposition.
Corinne Felgate: Bigger Than The Both Of Us (MoMA) – Rook & Raven – until 28 February 2015
Words: Paul Black Photo: Courtesy of Rook & Raven, P C Robinson © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved