Hidden beneath layers of scaffolding and residential streets lies a true art world gem. Postmasters Gallery has recently moved on Franklin St in TriBeCa, championing a beautiful refreshing white space with just as reputable artworks. They a few days ago closed their inaugurating show featuring NY-based artist Monica Cook and Steve Mumford. Georgia-born Cook currently lives and works in NYC, carrying under her belt a Summa Cum Laude BFA degree from Savannah School of Arts and Design. She dabbles in a spectrum of medium, including painting, sculpture, and animation… I choose to put my impression on Steve Mumford’s portion of the exhibit on the side for now to delve more in depth on Cook’s.
Though she was featured at Postmasters’ previous location in January 2012, according to the press release the show is amongst the artist’s most ambitious projects up to date. Her sculptures are featured in the space in a circular processional order. As a viewer, my intuitive response was to walk along the direction of the sculptures’ procession, in kinetic mimesis, as though I was one amongst others. Displayed is a true morose, macabre carnival-esque scene, featuring a series of principally three chariots (which I will describe here as I have experienced them, following along the direction of movement, from right to left).
The first chariot is chauffeured by a male human figure, second by a female human figure, and in the front is a large carriage carrying an excised bowel-spewing cow. The carriages are dragged or accompanied by a variety of recognizable (yet seemingly decrepit) animals including respectively a chicken, a goat and bird species (toucan-like, ostrich-like, etc). Leading the whole procession is a robot being with legs; a work Cook calls Dune Buggy (2013). It is a post-apocalypse meets the return of the dead scene, oozing emotional and physical states of calamity following robots like the Dune Buddy.
I’m going to pay particular interest on details of two of her works: the male and female human figures from respectively The Crop Duster (2013) and The Goat Cart (2013). The ‘man’’s intestines are covered with a plastic bubble; his muscles are exposed; his face is incomplete yet just enough to communicate a harrowing emotion; his penis appears to be the only complete and fully functioning portion of his body. The ‘woman’ carries an exaggerated number of breasts, her face mirrors an ape, (or that she came straight of Planet of the Apes…) These particular explicit, exposed, bare, raw morphological characteristics strike to me as Brechtian methods to, perhaps, illustrate a possible portrait of the contemporary male and female body.
Another particularly remarkable quality of Cook’s show is her remarkably minute, unrelenting attention to detail. It feels like every little thread of material, from the chariots’ allure to the claws and bubbles on the bottom of the woman’s slippers, are backed up by Cook’s thoughts and present for a very specific reason. The diamonds, the glass, the fruits replacing the spinal chord, the incomplete bodies, shriveled up penis, glass eyes, little strands of hair on the female’s head, the tubes protruding from orifices, muster into a visceral uncanny abject experience, and with this dynamic provides a one-of-a kind form of hyper-realism and fiction.
This attention to detail may be another of Cook’s techniques in bringing her sculptures to life, the latter being another one of the artist’s remarkable talents. This decrepit landscape of arranged recyclable/waste material and macabre imagery suddenly, when walking along the procession amongst them, begin to speak, to react, to hear; nearly to feel. They remind me of works from Choi Xooang or Ron Mueck, some of Tony Matelli’s, Olaf Breuning’s. It equally resonates with the recognizable mystique, cognitively disconcerting qualities of surrealism, echoing the harrow of Hans Bellmer.
“Milk Fruit” as a show exists to me like a Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas,” animation brought to 3 dimensional life, bringing about a slim middleground between active nurture (from the engendering and flow of milk) and passive nature (from fruit, the dying flower), a visceral cross between the role of the male and female figures within the world of constructed and deconstructed animal and technological kingdom, the state of emotional calamity that engenders a society lead by machines… Cook’s talent left me as a viewer feeling simultaneously sympathetic and repulsed by these uncanny creatures, and above all astonished by how such material and detail could shrilly echo with such vivacity on me. Her next project is an animated video using the sculptures featured for this show, “Milk Fruit.” Can’t wait to see it.
For more information on Monica Cook, click here