Employing loom techniques to photographs, Louise Noguchi, in four works from her 1995 series, Compilation Portraits, weaves tiny squares of complete photographs of either murderers or murder victims into those of auto-portraits. She therefore offers a persuasive disavowal of one postmodern tenet, which is that the representation of and close identification with a subject of a cultural and experiential background differing from that of the artist is morally unacceptable appropriation.
As with these contributions, Fruits de Mer (1997) by General Idea, undoubtedly the wittiest, most sophisticated piece exhibited, skillfully combines decoration and discourse. Phallic shaped sea cucumbers and lit circular halogen lights, mixed with multi-coloured starfish, adorn a gold fishing net suitable for hanging in sea food chain restaurants. The phallic/anal symbolism of the sea cucumbers and the halo-like lights hilariously dresses macho nautical culture in Freudian drag. Decoration here is subversively gay, as is the dual language pun, fruits, initially reading as part of the French term for sea food. Further, the pink, blue and gold colours making up the piece refer to Yves Klein’s signature colours, and in doing so, parody the machismo his female body prints and bravado performances represent. Exemplifying and arguably initiating the lineage of the trend in Toronto art towards subversive decoration, General Idea is both a suitable beginning and end point to “Rococo Tattoo.”
As the curator of “Rococo Tattoo,” Monk successfully taps into risky waters and, in doing so, manages to provide a convincing argument to an ethically aware audience that art is, in the late nineties, able to offer pleasurable imagery and critical discourse simultaneously. Decoration here does not equate frivolous escapism; rather, it offers viewers an unapologetically handsome and sexy costume party to honour and enhance the complex analyses of social and political issues contained in this exhibition.
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