Stone Cold or Warm Flesh: Bodies in Galleries These Days

Since artists started to travel at full speed through the paths of experimenting with every genre and material possible, the idea of the body has fallen into a constant shift in its form. Marisol’s carved wood robust humans, Willem de Kooning’s highly abstracted Woman series, and more recently John Currin’s ode to Mannerism era with his long necked figures have all presented a strive to deform the human body in order to surpass that first visual layer to reach that deeper layer where the true human self resides. Long gone are those idealized Venus’ or St. Sebastian’s, seeing a sightly human body in contemporary art is almost zero chance anymore (see Jenny Morgan’s mesmerizing nudes).

Beauty, Mirth and Abundance at Swiss Institute

Beauty, Mirth and Abundance at Swiss Institute

At Swiss Institute, another unlikely interpretation of the human form and its standpoint towards the human gaze is waiting to be discovered. Allyson Vieira’s solo exhibition The Plural Present constructs not only new arguments on the human body, but it also builds an actual specific space that invites the viewers into an experience that attempts to locate the body in the universe within a border. This 20 foot construction titled The City is made out of steel studs that reaches up to the ceiling of the SoHo space.

Reminiscent of a glorious dome from the antiquity or a sanctuary that offers a foolproof home to the runaways, this construction serves as the domicile for three human forms gracing ‘the city’. These three sculpted forms, titled as Beauty, Mirth and Abundance, pay an homage to Three Graces myth that has been an important inspiration in art history. These female figures of carved and mortared bricks present us today’s industrialized and concreted bodies by mostly revealing the physical labor behind them and diminishing the importance of the end result. Totally giving up reflecting the actual form of the human body, these sculptures give glimpses into an apocalyptic time and space complete with the steel construction surrounding them.

A view from Allyson Vieira's installation

A view from Allyson Vieira’s installation

Steps away from Swiss Institute, when looked from the outside a few dancers at Team Gallery are doing their daily rehearsal routine with their bright colored outfits. As a part of his exhibition titled Chorus Line, Massimo Grimaldi invited a number of contemporary dancers to execute their daily exercise routine inside the gallery space where the walls are also covered with mirrors to emphasize the dance studio effect. As the dancers warm up, chat and simply move around the space, the visitors of the gallery are challenged to walk through them as the (un)invited guests in their routine.

This time, the real human bodies and their blood and flesh realities serve as a challenge to the eye unlike the previous experience that carries the easiness of facing the cold concrete form. The physical and the social presence of these strangers as they do their usual dance routine by totally ignoring the visitors break the flat and linear perception of us viewers with their flowing and ever shifting human forms.

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