Cathy De Monchaux

By Auslander, Philip | Artforum International, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Cathy De Monchaux


Auslander, Philip, Artforum International


HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN

It is entirely fitting that Cathy de Monchaux creates sculptural constructions specifically to be installed in corners of rooms. Her objects do not just hang on the wall or sit on the floor: They lurk, lying in wait to trap the viewer's gaze in lush, velvety folds or to impale it on spiky latticework. Because most of de Monchaux's pieces are hung at eye level, they invite dose inspection. Surrendering to the impulse to approach for the near view, however, is often rewarded with the unsettling feeling that you have gotten too close to something you shouldn't be seeing.

The hallmarks of de Monchaux's art of the last four years, the period covered by the Hirshhorn's exhibition of eleven sculptures, include juxtapositions of recessive or protruding fleshy structures, often reminiscent of sexual organs, that are adorned with velvet, fur, restrictive metal hardware, and leather straps. Red, 1999, a shallow, almost cylindrical floor piece somewhat resembling a baptismal font, houses concentric rings of red velvet and a dozen long leather straps studded with buckles, which emerge from the heart of the font, extend up over the sides, and are anchored to its outer base. At first glance, these straps seem to be restraints of some kind, as if whatever is inside the oval might attempt an escape. But they could also be read as the legs or tentacles of a creature whose crenulated red-velvet brain pulses at the center of the oval. The way de Monchaux's materials can be variously read results in productive tensions: Red may represent an organic entity held in place by inorganic forces, or it may represent a single entity that monstrously combines the organic and the inorganic. …

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