“Take 2,” the current exhibit at the Mills Art Museum, reflects and builds on works from artists and movements past, such as Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and early American simplicity. Even without knowledge of the masters drawn upon by the nine artists in the exhibit, viewers can still appreciate the works.
Coddle by Janine Antoni makes a statement about the human body.
Antoni poses on a red couch, holding her left leg and looking down at it with motherly care, as if it were a child. The cast of light results in an extreme line through the photograph and brightly illuminates the leg that Antoni admires so much.
From the angle at which it is placed, the leg seems eerily detached from the rest of her body, yet if one casts away concerns for the artist’s hyperextension, it becomes apparent the artist is evoking the classic scene of the Virgin Mary holding her baby Jesus.
On the one hand, the artist is commenting on embracing her body as a product of herself, just as one might her own child. Yet taken to an extreme, this might contrive a sense of vanity, which then lends itself to the concept of childbirth being a form of vanity.
Just a sashay to the right puts the viewer before Cotton Ginny by Kara Walker made of cut black paper on a sheet of white paper, depicting a girl in silhouette carrying a sack of cotton on her back. Her head bends down toward one of her nipples, and she is clad in only a skirt. Her small ponytail extends perpendicularly from the back of her head and the lateral line of the piece, making it the highest point. The little bow at its end evokes a sense of girlhood, and the ragged hem of her skirt lets the viewer assume she is poor.
With the concept of woman showing affection to her own body already in Cotton Ginny and Coddle, Sherrie Levine’s La Fortune (After Man Ray) follows subtle suit. The piece is a three-dimensional billiard table, entirely unorthodox in its absence of pockets, which renders it dysfunctional.
However, this travesty is no fault of the artist’s, as she only brings to life the billiard table in the painting La Fortune by Man Ray. The legs of the table are bulbous and resemble gigot sleeves that were popular in women’s dresses of the 1830s. These legs, fashioned into arms, are holding up a pool table lacking orifices that allow its use.
The featured pieces do not depend on their criticism of the originals in making their own statements, yet the retrospective theme of tying the past with the present and an intermingling of the ideals remains constant throughout the exhibit.
Amateur spectators of the arts will find the art exhibit extremely compelling and enjoyable to visit. For those more experienced with the art world, there is enough reference to the artistic past and hearkening back in this collection to conjure up a sumptuous recollection of prior masterpiece.
For more information on the theme, check out the catalogue, available in the art museum for $20. The exhibit will run for the entire semester. Admission to the exhibit is free.