Tuesday, August 15, 2006

David Altmejd | Don't Fail Me Now | TBA Exhibition Space

David Altmejd | Don’t Fail Me Now | Group Show | TBA
October 10 – November 8 2003
Originally posted on Panel-House: October 2003


Interesting, but David Altmejd’s two “decapitated heads” at TBA’s group show Don’t Fail Me Now don’t look like they ever belonged to bodies. They look more like they were deliberately formed, they might even be in the process of forming, and they seem to conflate life with earth and mineral processes.

Have you ever been to Death Valley? There’s a sign overlooking a spot called Dante’s View which describes the fate of any creature left in the salt flat for three days: death, desiccation and encrustation. Altmejd’s Untitled 2003 (described as the head of a hippy in the gallery materials) looks as though she’s been there for three years. Caustic crystals have formed complex rivulets of shimmering color, eating into and corroding the surface thickness of her face. One eyelash still hangs on while the gaping excavation into the dark hull of her interior, lined at its peripheries with barbed wire defenses, becomes her faceless no-gaze. All beneath the nostalgic glitz of a perfectly dressed wig.

There is a certain didactic, nagging quality to this work. Riddled with allusions to the core emptiness, the black-holiness of femininity: Meet the vagina dentata with silky hair. With her gaudy cheap jewelry add-ons, she is all container. Yet there is this potentially theatrical space inside her head, beyond the barbed proscenium, that Altmejd seems to unwittingly ignore. And this oversight is passed on to you, the viewer, as you wait in vain for the lights to come on and illuminate the missing show.

The werewolf head on the other hand, Untitled 2002, ought to smell like a tar pit. Fixed to a wall from its right side, you can peer into its open neck, the black earth ooze continuing like a rough tunnel into a deep mountain. The whole thing is about life size, if you suppose I know about how big werewolves are, so don’t think you’re being literally invited into the wild to mine the pyrite crystals studding this handsome creature’s accreted, devastatingly scarred skin. But amidst the patches of hair-fur you’ll note the gaudy jewelry again and be snapped back to city streets so fast your head spins. Maybe you’ll wonder, is he just too cool? Or is he a she, and is she just too too? And please, be careful not to snag anything on the rhinestones. The message on the little piece of tape stuck on the antenna-like projection helps: “everything clear.” I love irony when it’s onanistic, don’t you?

Here’s a last thought: I wonder what would happen if Altmejd ever recognized that he’s on the verge of creating spatially projected arenas, not just empty busts. He constructs rich, varied surfaces and depths that, if allowed to speak for themselves, would invite the projection of your own narrative urges. These evocative topographies are landscaped by Altmejd’s desire to make his message just a little too un/clear.

Written by Phooferpfeffer

NOTE: TBA Exhibition Space was at the old Art Chicago space and is now, sadly, closed. Thsi show featured; David Altmejd, Melina Ausikaitis, Jay Heikes, Andy Moore, Amanda Ross-Ho and Molly Smith and was curated by Keri Butler and Lisa Williamson.

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