I have constructed a hermetically sealed installation inside of a tapered, sloping tunnel built into the side of the Mississippi river bluffs. The opening is 50ft by 50ft and is made entirely of prismatic glass sections that throw kaleidoscopic beams of sunlight into the atrium. My first work of art is placed in just a few feet inside this entranceway.
Your Dog. Yoshitomo Nara. Japan 2002. 72 x 51 x 108 inch. Fiberglass sculpture. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs.
This is the first piece in my new collection due to the sense of fun and life that the art brings to the viewer. As the artist probably intended, you can see a sort of joy and pent up excitement in the posture of the dog, especially with it’s erect tail and closed eyes. This reminds me of the look a puppy gets when your hand is just about to pet it’s back. The choices of white fiberglass for the body and the bright red nose give it a sleek and streamlined look for the new millennium, imparting a sense of fun and life.
MIA Gift Shop Doll collection. Unknown Artists. Unknown Medium. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs.
About ten feet farther into the exhibit you come across a 48 x 72 inch display case filled with shelves of stuffed dolls. The collection of gift shop dolls tossed on shelves without regard to the joy that they might bring someone provides the eye with a riot of color and perceived textures. The bright colors and soft appearance of the pieces contrast with the unblinking eyes and slightly malevolent stares to leave one unsure of the comfort given by these creatures. Their proximity to Your Dog implies a sense of continuity in the joyous celebration of life, yet the fact that one cannot touch or seek comfort from walled in softness of these glaring beasties imparts some caution and maybe a little foreboding.
Pillow. Unknown Artist. China, Ch’ing Dynasty 17th-18th Century. Greenish-White Nephrite. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs.
As you proceed another few steps into my exhibition you meet a stark white pedestal 24 inches tall by 12” square. The height of the pedestal and small size of the piece force one to stoop uncomfortably in order to obtain the best viewing. The hardness of the pillow combined with the soft rounded appearance continues the juxtaposition of comfort and unease stemming from the gift shop dolls. The uncomfortable looking position of the figurine combined with the facial expression that could either be pain or pleasure, and the severe white pedestal and washed out colors of the piece reinforce this idea.
Gift Shop Bone Doll. Unknown Artist. China 2009. Unknown Media
At the very edge of where the fairy-tale patterns of dappled sunlight hit the floor, poised at the brink of darkness a few more feet into the tunnel you come across this colorful, defiant, disturbing piece. The walls have slowly tapered in toward each other at this point, and the slight downward slope of the floor is all the more noticeable as one makes the transition from light to dark, life to death. The tunnel is now 30 ft across and 30 ft high. Here, on the edge of the shadows, moving into the increasingly constrictive maw of the exhibit, you are confronted by the celebration of death and the afterlife in the form of another gift shop doll. Does it say something that this piece is posed alone? Sitting, slouched in the corner of two 36 x 36 inch black painted walls in the center of the tunnel, you are reminded of discarded trash and of things once bright and joyous, now past their prime and fading to shadows. The dim lighting exaggerates the faded impression of her bright robes as we continue our exploration of the decline of life and society.
Triptych; Prisoner’s of the Mountains of Mist (Center Panel). Giovanni Battista Crema. Italy 1910. Oil on Canvas. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs
This piece is in shadows, light from below by a single bulb. Located 10 ft farther down the exhibit from the Bone Doll, just around a 90 degree right turn in the tunnel; the triptych raises a lot of questions. Are the male and female subjects simply sleeping lovers, sated after an afternoon of passion? Are they dead, cast aside, souls fled with the phoenix being held by the male? Does the fact that the phoenix is spread in much the same posture as the man and women, yet appears to be held by the man imply that there can be no rebirth due to the sins of the young and seemingly innocent? The fact that this painting is presented in the darker recesses of my gallery would imply some aspects of the transition from nubile young life and the hope of salvation to the cold stagnancy of death.
Female Acrobat. Pavel Tchelitchew. Russia 1930’s. Oil on Canvas. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs
This paintings placement 15 ft beyond Crema’s triptych takes Pavel Tchelitchew’s graceful and erotic picture of a female acrobat and brings out what might be a truer meaning deep within the artwork. The air in this deeper part of the gallery is more stifling due to the airtight sealing of the entrance. The illusion of openness imparted in the radiant atrium is no longer in sight. The work is light from below by a single bulb. The dim light combined with the dull colors and stretched pose of the subject imply a sense of strain and painful, tormented struggle. Is she perhaps now striving to ascend to the afterlife rather than swing on the trapeze? Is she trapped in purgatory, begging for release? Is there no light, no heaven, no fluffy clouds and harps? Is there simply atonement and anguish?
As we proceed another 20 ft into our exploration of the transition from 3D life to flat 2D death, we come across this painting. Lit from below, as with the previous two, the contrast of flesh tone with the deep reds and blues in this piece immediately draw our eye. Another foray into the idea that we are but meat, with nothing beyond our vibrant lives, this is perhaps the most disturbing piece in the collection. Given the previous human figures shown in various stages of deathlike and tormented poses, you can’t help but question- is this beef, or is it actually a rendering of the upside down carcass of a two legged creature cast aside after it’s moment in the sun.
Lyuba Rorschach. Roxanne Jackson. United States 2009. Unknown media.
Thirty feet beyond the painting of the Carcass of Beef, at the very end of the tunnel, one is confronted with the Lyuba Rorschach. The tunnel at this point has narrowed to 20ft by 20ft. The piece is lit by cunningly hidden inset ceiling lighting, so as to give the impression of cold, sourceless mist. The black walls of the tunnel strengthen the impression of exanimate form. This tells you unquestionably that there is nothing else. There is no color, no life, no joy, no love, no feeling, no hope. This is the end.