Magazine article Artforum International

Ellen Harvey

Magazine article Artforum International

Ellen Harvey

Article excerpt

DODGEGALLERY

Ellen Harvey's "The Nudist Museum Gift Shop" included installations evoking both a museum and a gift shop, as well as works situated in a bathroom and a stairwell. This is all to the point: Harvey's practice engages not just with art history, but with the spaces in which we experience art. For New York Beautification Project, 1999-2001, she painted small, classical landscapes on buildings and Dumpsters, allowing for unexpected encounters at public sites already claimed by graffiti. Arcadia, 2011, created for the inaugural show at Turner Contemporary, in Margate, UK, furnished a scale model of J. M. W. Turner's private gallery with the landscape etchings that were found there after the artist's death in 1851 (in Harvey's version, these were etched onto mirrors and backlit). With these works, as in the photographs of Thomas Struth (and Johan Zoffany's The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772-78), Harvey reminds us that perception is at least in part a social and historical act.

The Nudist Museum, 2010, is a wall crammed with reproductions of paintings from the collection of the Bass Museum of Art, Miami, which Harvey has cropped to more prominently feature the nude bodies they contain. There are nude baby Jesuses, nude adult Jesuses on the cross, fleshy Madonnas, nymphs, and satyrs. The bodies are rendered in a variety of flesh tints, with everything else painted in grisaille that often overflows onto the frames, rather humorously suggesting the way in which interest might trail off once one tires of the flesh. Pasted on the wall behind the framed paintings is a patchwork of pornographic and near-pornographic magazine images, in loud full color.

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The Nudist Museum Gift Shop, 2012, installed in the upstairs gallery, is also made up of paintings, each of them depicting flea market--type objects: three nude Graces forming the base for a lamp, a nude caryatid holding up a glass coffee table, mugs and flasks featuring disembodied torsos, breasts, and buttocks. …

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