Magazine article Artforum International

Malia Jensen: Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Malia Jensen: Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Article excerpt

It's tempting to characterize Portland-bred, Brooklyn-based artist Malia Jensen's recent solo show at Elizabeth Leach Gallery as a classic case of the country mouse in the city. Jensen's work has often trafficked in animal forms, and the shift in iconography from forest creatures to rats and pigeons following the artist's move from the Northwest to New York two years ago is hard to ignore. But to boil it down thus would be unfair and would discount her work's wry humor and its lucidly drawn tension between form and content. Sometimes, apparently, the country mouse is just naturally as refined as its metropolitan cousin.

Jensen's career took off in the early 1990s, when she began making taxidermied forms investigating the dark comedy of death and its display, with undertones of sexual perversity: a deer upholstered in red rubber; an eyeless black rubber doe. In the years since, she has acquired a regional following for her deft play of sign, surface, and scale, a material and semiotic slipperiness that turns a horse into glass, a pig into newspaper. Among the more accomplished pieces in her portfolio are Beaver Story, 2000, a nine-foot beaver made of used, layered plywood (an ode to the region's first mammalian land developer, and a monumental, if deadpan, anti-phallus), and Purse (in soap), 2001, a carved soap purse sporting vulvic drapery and stamenlike clasps.

In this show, Jensen further extends her themes of nature and signification via a concise handful of three-dimensional pieces. Pigeon Tower, 2006, is a stack of bronze pigeons that form a shaft recalling Constantin Brancusi's Endless Column sculptures--a study for a larger monument designed to be erected in an urban park and host real pigeons. Stalagmite, 2006, uses the same bronze and patina material to rather different effect; it's a satisfyingly lumpy pile that speaks of gradual accretion as opposed to flight. …

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