Magazine article Artforum International

"American Bricolage"

Magazine article Artforum International

"American Bricolage"

Article excerpt

SPERONE WESTWATER

Like flaner, bricoler is one of those French verbs for which there is no real equivalent in English. The flaneur strolls through city streets without a destination; the bricoleur cobbles together bizarrely functional if totally impractical objects from materials at hand, more muddled inventor or dotty visionary than strategic entrepreneur. Both activities carry a hint of the subversive--particularly in this country, home of assembly-line efficiency, planned obsolescence, and automobile addiction.

Indeed, coming on the heels of a surging '90s economy that begat art distinguished by its slick good looks (a quality increasingly extended to artists as well), Tom Sachs and David Leiber's show was a prescient about-face, charting the undercurrent among artists who have shunned professionalism in favor of an inspired amateurism. As if to assert its nationality, "American Bricolage" began with Greg Colson's The Bills Americans Hate Paying, 2000, a charmingly modest painted-wood pie chart. This brand of USA Today-style populism found a fantastical counterpoint looming across the gallery in Tim Hawkinson's Bagpipe, 1998, an enormous plastic bag held together by a web of string, with pipes made of cardboard and plastic bottles wheezing out doleful, almost unrecognizable renditions of tunes like "Irish Spring."

More literally figurative, as well as narrative, were H.C. Westermann's Battle to the Death in the Ice House, 1971, and Hope Atherton's Black Hawk Descending, 2000. In Westermann's piece, a suicide tableau plays out inside a doorless but many-windowed, doll-size cabin. Atherton, the youngest artist in the show (and the only female), brought together Gothic sensibilities, heavy-metal/sci-fi fantasy, and highschool diorama in a piece constructed inside an old glass cabinet: In a frozen wilderness, a buxom nude woman writhes at the end of a chain binding her to a tree stump, while a hawk, actually made from turkey feathers, perches ominously on the cabinet. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.