Carmen Perrin

By Borum, Jenifer P. | Artforum International, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Carmen Perrin


Borum, Jenifer P., Artforum International


These two very different shows marked Swiss artist Carmen Perrin's solo debut in the United States. Common to all of her work is a commitment to exploring the possibilities of industrial materials--metal, rubber, wood, and fiberglass, among others--which has yielded formally varied but consistently provocative results. John Good presented a range of Perrin's free-standing and wall-mounted sculptures from the past several years. Populating the floor like hypertensed creatures poised to spring were her relatively large, "temporary" constructions. Assembled of twisted and stressed steel, rubber, and plywood, these are as much about delineating space as they are about creating plastic forms, and the shapes they take are but a by-product of Perrin's penchant for pushing each material to its limits. In one work from 1991, a double-cone-shaped fiberglass skeleton stretches bands of rubber nearly to their breaking point, while in another work from 1992, pieces of plywood are bent unnaturally to form a gaping, hollow cone. Perrin requires the viewer to rethink the very act of viewing sculpture. Inevitably, her materials are not what they seem--optical illusions abound, mass is repeatedly suggested and then denied, voids are privileged over forms, and each work changes radically when viewed from a different angle. In short, Perrin's formal virtuosity undermines familiar expectations of what sculpture should be.

Seven square, serially arranged, wall-mounted reliefs made of rubber sheets that have been geometrically patterned with hand-punched holes (1992--93), as well as a single square composition comprised of nails and rubber bands (1992), were also provocative, albeit on a pictorial level. However, the most intriguing wall-hung works were the least obtrusive--29 floppy fragments of dark and light woven rubber that looked deceptively like odd bits of textile. These offered a welcome counterpoint to the hard-edged look of the rest of the show, and placed the artist unmistakably within the tradition of latter-day post-Minimalism. …

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