Monday, August 15, 2011

Alex Da Corte's Flowers

Alex Da Corte, Silver Screen, 2011. MDF, wood, enamel paint, foam, glue, bucket, silver spray paint, epoxy resin, cable, grapes, baby powder, plastic flowers, shampoo, conditioner, soda, acrylic rods, and plastic bags, in "'That's How We Escaped': Reflections on Warhol," at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, through August 7, 2011.

“I take one idea and I want to add to it, flip it, or just turn it on its head," artist Alex Da Corte told Christopher Bollen, in Interview, last year. "That’s how it mashes into my own.” Da Corte did exactly that in Silver Screen (2011), a wall-hung sculpture that was included in the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia's recent exhibition "That's How We Escaped," which was about the raucous opening reception that was held there on October 8, 1965, for Andy Warhol's first museum exhibition.

Silver Screen consists of a bevy of fake flowers, sprayed with silver, which spill out of a replica of the stairs on which Warhol and his entourage were stranded during that crowded opening party. Flowers also recently figured in Da Corte's exhibition in Cleopatra's booth (which is to say, hotel room) at The Dependent Fair in March of this year. At the Four Points by Sheraton they looked fresh, moist, and tropical — they were thriving in that tiny, sweaty bathroom. At the ICA, though, they look as though they could have been frozen for years, accumulating layers of nostalgia. Decades have apparently passed since March.

Alex Da Corte's installation at the Dependent Art Fair, March 4, 2011

Here's Warhol, discussing that storied evening:
"We were on those steps for at least two hours. People were passing things up to be autographed — shopping bags, candy wrappers, address books, train tickets, soup cans. I signed some things but Edie was signing most of them 'Andy Warhol' herself. There was no way to leave — we knew we'd be mobbed as soon as we came down. Finally the officials ordered the fire department to break through the sealed off door behind us with crowbars, and we were led out that way, through a library, onto the roof, over an adjoining building, down a fire escape, and into waiting police cars. Now things were getting really interesting."
The late ICA curator Sam Green, anticipating a crowd, had removed almost all of Warhol's works before the opening. "Nobody even cared that the paintings were all off the walls," Warhol later remarked. "I was really glad I was making movies instead."

All of that said, Da Corte's soda floor pieces (his sugar-sweet Carl Andres, if you will), which he showed at P.S.1 in 2009, are still number one in my book. (If I had the floor space, I'd try to make one happen.) However, his flowers are creeping up on me, revealing, as they do, an artist willing to rethink and reengineer his ideas at a rapid pace, moving easily from germination to retrospection.

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