Rachel Harrison - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Arndt & Partner, Berlin

  • Exhibited

    Berlin, Arndt & Partner, Rachel Harrison: Seven Sculptures, March 9 – April 20, 2002; Milwaukee Art Museum, Currents 30 : Rachel Harrison, September 20, 2002 – January 5, 2003; Zurich, Migros Museum, Voyage of the Beagle, April 29 –June 24, 2007

  • Literature

    S. Basilico, Currents 30 : Rachel Harrison, Milwaukee, 2002, pp. 28-29 (illustrated); S. Anton, B. Hainley, “Bear Necessities,” ArtForum, November 2002, p. 169 (illustrated); J. Allen, “Moving Targets,” Frieze, October 2007, p. 237

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Harrison approaches sculpture via the royal road of the image rather than through the notions of objecthood and materiality; hence, she rejects any three-dimensional object over the image, submitting Minimalism to Pop’s –and popular culture’s – all-devouring maw." (S. Anton, “Shelf Life,” ArtForum, November 2002, p. 164)
    Rachel Harrison combines assorted cultural artifacts with handmade objects to create intriguing mixed media sculptures.The artist’s work raises questions about narrative, cultural hierarchies, presentation, and material. She instills her sculptural forms with open-ended narratives by including photographs, as she does in the present lot Marlon and Indian, 2002.The combination of these two mediums activates situations full of questions and multiple ambiguous meanings. Her sculptures have an intentional combine and hand-made appearance and are often made from found materials.The photographs, which may also be found objects, often contain an image of a person or persons, as the photograph in our current lot contains Marlon Brando’s eyes. Rachel Harrison’s unique blend of sculpture, photography and the readymade is a novel approach to contemporary object making.
    The artist comments humorously on the borders between high and low culture with her inclusion of found objects and figures from pop culture. She combines them into her art in a way that everything is visually linked to everything else, so that the consumer objects or celebrity references become equal in importance to her own hand-made parts of the sculpture. Her work is not a critical view on mass culture’s lows, since her sculptures blur the boundaries of cultural hierarchy. Another, somewhat equalizing element in her sculptures is that she often uses pop culture references to things or people nearly forgotten by contemporary society. In 2002 when she created Marlon and Indian, Marlon Brando was two years away from his death and was becoming more famous for his weight gain than for his impressive acting career. Her use of Brando’s photographs breathes new life into an old image of the actor, possibly from his younger days portraying Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, and uses the image for a whole new purpose.The other pop culture piece that she incorporates into her sculpture is a mass-produced figurine of an Indian perched atop the sculpture’s wood formation turned lookout-point on the left. Again this is a piece of pop-culture quickly fading into our past and may in fact have been garbage before Harrison turned it into art.
    In our present lot, the Indian figurine is placed facing something that could be read as an abstract sculpture, which is placed on a table with an open drawer, on top of another table all with a surface characteristically covered in the same material and painted in one color.The work engages the viewer to move around the sculpture and look down into the drawer to find Marlon Brando’s eyes looking right back.The sculpture seems to be about the act of viewing.The presence of the photograph and the toy in association with the abstract shapes and table inspires questions about the relationship between the two-dimensional image and the three-dimensional forms on which it rests as well as the relationship between Marlon Brando and the image. Do the objects represent the settings in which the photographs were shot? Do they connect in some narrative fashion to the person who is shown? Marlon Brando was noted for being a Native American rights activist, and even declined his Academy Award in 1973, sending Native American Rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place as an objection to the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood. Could the plastic Indian figurine represent this connection? Brando believed that he was blacklisted in Hollywood due to his political stances –is this what it means to have the image put in a drawer? Part of the beauty of Marlon and Indian, 2002 is that it elicits multiple possible readings.


Marlon and Indian

Paint and concrete mix on wood with c-print and plastic figurine.
42 ¾ x 50 ¼ x 29 ½ in. (108.6 x 127.6 x 74.9 cm).

$70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $62,500

Contemporary Art Part I

13 Nov 2008, 7pm
New York