Magazine article Artforum International

Joe Fig: Plus Ultra

Magazine article Artforum International

Joe Fig: Plus Ultra

Article excerpt

Dollhouses are funny things. Introduced in northern Europe in the seventeenth century, they were originally used by rich women to manage their households, providing a virtual view of the premises. Later, they became more akin to little museums or cabinets of curiosities. More recently, they've become toys with an edge of macabre kitsch. Joe Fig's recent sculpture borrows heavily from the dollhouse idiom, co-opting the God's-eye perspective, the miniaturization, and the implication of a narrative (here, art historical), all played out on a tiny stage in a parallel world that mimics our own.

In the past, Fig has made painstakingly accurate models of artists' studios--Constantin Brancusi's, Willem de Kooning's, Jackson Pollock's--which included little artist figures, further stoking the doll-house association. For his recent show at Plus Ultra, he narrowed his focus and mostly eschewed the dolls, homing in instead on painters' studio tables. This time the obsessively detailed models, housed in Plexiglas boxes that functioned like tiny vitrines, represent in miniature the work surfaces of Matthew Ritchie, Julie Mehretu, Amy Sillman, Chuck Close, Dana Schutz, Karin Davie, Philip Pearlstein, Barnaby Furnas, and other painters. (Two other works featured the opulent Long Island studios of April Gornik and Eric Fischl, in toto, figures included.) On these tables are the tools of the trade, arranged according to the artists' proclivities. The table becomes a synecdoche for the studio and the work. But, except in the Fischl and Gornik studios, we don't see any actual paintings; Fig's project may tempt some viewers to track those down elsewhere.

Previously, Fig's replica studios, complete with figures caught in the act of artmaking, ran the risk of being too cute (Awww, look at the little Brancusi!). In the new work, this is still a problem (Look at those tiny paper towels! …

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