Rachel Harrison is phoning it in as of late.
For an artist that for many (not me) represented a wonky, handmade burst of fresh air in the mid-90s, her proceedings, it is easy to argue, now have a certain rote feel to them. She’s been, for instance, trotting out her photographs from an ongoing series of photographs called Voyage of the Beagle and placing them next to a sparse population of sculptures since 2007. That’s only 3 years, and perhaps unfair to say, but it stands to reason that an artist, so often praised for funny singular moments of sculpture, would have more dynamism when it comes to a gallery space. She’s capable of such dynamism, but at the moment is either too busy (probable), taking on too many shows because of market need (definitely) or just lazy (hard to know).
Before I go on to discuss affirmatively many of the individual sculptures in
First, photographic work of this nature and exactly for
Second, that these photographs, as interesting and fun as some of them may be are taken seriously as works of art leads me to again be concerned over the influence of the sloppy thinking behind so much archive work. It is not bad for meaning to remain pliable and be negotiated into shape by a viewer, but the fact remains that such an investment in a gallery space is a far fetched proposition. Worse, it’s an invitation for an artist to simply not to take the time to think through the concerns they are interested in when it comes to their archives. I had this problem with Sam Durant’s use of display material from a closed American Heritage museum a few years back at Blum and Poe. In that show, we were given clumsy sculptures and a pile of books to read, and such is the case with
Fortunately if the Voyage of the Beagle was left in
There is a narrative order to many of
Pagel is right, however, that Harrison does have many erudite and annoying academic writers pushing her work, layering it with piles of overworked rubbish that is unfortunate (see Gingeras above though admittedly, she is curator and not an academic), and he is also right that Harrison may believe her morbidly overwrought Freudian PR. But in many ways, it should be noted, the overly familiar feeling of her current show at Regen is a product of her own influence on a younger generation of artists.
So many sculptures feel like Rachel Harrisons (if I see another leaning wall piece, I might just hang up my hat and move on) and perhaps this familiarity leads writers like George Baker (also writing in Parkett) to place Harrison as a part of a generalized sculptural moment where thoughts on formal relationships relies on what Baker calls “promiscuous relation” or “polymorphous perversity”—“a sculpture holding up other objects, other forms, a sculpture of attachment, of juxtaposition, of connection.” You might place artists (repressing for just a moment their individual projects and just going formal) like Thomas Hirshhorn, Urs Fisher, Sterling Ruby, Amanda Ross-Hoss, Nate Lowman, Manfred Pernice and countless others in this category, in the sculpture as “subjective construction” moment where, since the self is split, fractured, and riven with so many contradictions, the subjective constructions look like that as well—accumulations of objects, messy apartments, and connections that are wild and hodgepodge.
It may be the case that this is what we are at the moment and this is our sculpture, but for me the verdict is still out. I haven’t given up on elegance and reason just yet.