Magazine article Artforum International

Michael Minelli: Michael Kohn Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Michael Minelli: Michael Kohn Gallery

Article excerpt

The head of a nurse, an Arab woman in Niqab, and a cicatrized, monocled Daddy Warbucks-like man stare at the viewer blankly, not even asking, in the manner of De Niro's Travis Bickle, You lookin' at me? The problems inherent to representing in sculpture both the act of looking and the information provided by a specific face account only partially for the strange power of Michael Minelli's second solo show. Where previously he proffered totemic, gleefully gaudy Bruce Conner--esque assemblages or combined the bodies of various televisual and cinematic stars to make small, meticulous figurative fetish sculptures (quietly deranging the Greek ideal of a body by constructing seemingly seamless wholes made up of disparate parts (a Mia Farrow--ish torso, say, topped with Yoda's noggin), with his new pieces something only apparently simpler but in the end more disturbing goes on. Minelli deploys a variety of stylizations and stereotypes to create a nostalgic rainbow coalition of silent talking heads from a nonexistent global village--tribal cannibal (all works 2004), wealthy flapper, efficient mid-level manager--that convey everything and nothing through contradictory looks. It's as if a manic Geppeto began making the puppets for an adult version of It's a Small World After All but never got beyond the tops.

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Minelli capitalizes on, well, a weird proto-neo-social realism while managing to recall the tender three-dimensional portraiture of John Ahearn. Tuned in to the bombardment of fictional characters, "real" personages, and liminal figures broadcast and eerily equalized or flattened by television (I hesitate to suggest by contemporary life), Minelli succeeds in applying the vernaculars of Disneyland and Norman Rockwell to Hogarth- and Daumier-like ends. Three piezo prints, Rotunda, Usual Suspects No. 1, and Usual Suspects No. …

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