Annette Messager: Marian Goodman Gallery
Hudson, Suzanne, Artforum International
I imagine that winning a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale would be a pretty hard act to follow. This was the predicament Annette Messager must have found herself in, contemplating her first solo show in Marian Goodman's New York space not too long after the success of her Pinocchio-themed "Casino" pavilion in 2005. In response to potentially stultifying validation, she seems to have decided that a certain caution might be warranted. While "Mettre aux Mondes" ("To Bring into the Worlds") is still marked by Messager's flights of surreal, often violent, fancy, it is also downright circumspect. The panoply of objects in this exhibition oscillates between the diminutive and the gargantuan, and her expressions slide between outrage and ecstasy, sentimentality and camp, but the sum effect is not neutrality so much as irresolution.
Or such was the premise of Messager's commentary on creative genesis. Perhaps inevitably if regrettably tied to childbirth, the ever-mutable buxom, globular figures in the namesake piece, To Bring into the Worlds, 2006, are veritably pregnant with possibility. Cartoonlike figures gambol across the group of eight India ink drawings, rolling, dancing, floating, kicking up their heels, splaying their legs, fondling themselves, conversing on a bolster, transforming into a frog, a spider, a snarling vagina dentata, an intestine, a corporate logo, and a paperweight. The potential for perversion seems endless.
The same could be said of the related objects, domesticated little balls of terra-cotta painted to look like mini-earths. In the installation Grand filet: monde (Large Net: World), 2005-2006, they are variously inserted into an unraveling sock and trapped in one of Messager's ubiquitous black nets. (Another net spelled out the word SECRET across the opposite wall. …