Magazine article Artforum International

Erick Swenson: James Cohan Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Erick Swenson: James Cohan Gallery

Article excerpt

At least since his 1998 show at Dallas's Angstrom Gallery, Erick Swenson has pursued a level of presentation and craftsmanship so exacting that it might attract phone calls equally from museum curators and from Hollywood special-effects technicians. Titled "Obviously a Movie," the Angstrom show consisted of sculpted creatures, including a creepy half-horse, half-sheep called Edgar, 1997, that stood upright and two green-faced ape-men set in action poses among snow-covered rocks, all dusted with artificial snow. Making no secret of their artifice and sources, Swenson's hybrid forms appear almost capable of movement yet are wholly unnatural and inhabit uniquely improbable environments. Like the aliens in the Star Wars movies, Swenson's figures are initially modeled in clay, then cast in polyurethane resin and painted. But Swenson's wondrous tableaux serve no script except his own, a set of concerns that is itself a hybrid encompassing awarenesses of the nineteenth-century Romantic sensibility and the inhabitants of the ice planet Hoth.

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As this, his first New York solo show, and the concurrent display of his work at the 2004 Whitney Biennial indicated, Swenson's sensibility has shifted from the cinematic to the theatrical and the mythic, with two discrete but ambitiously scaled works that are at once pristine and baroque. Untitled, 2001, exhibited at the Whitney, is like a still from a Surrealist film. A milky white fawn is shown standing on a Persian carpet with its legs splayed, casting a dark, oddly shaped shadow. The animal stoops to rub its antlers against the carpet and sloughs off a covering of downy velvet, leaving peelings and eroding the rug. …

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