Sep 25, 2009

Museum Culture: the Quick +the Dead (Part 2)

I love taxidermy. A few weeks ago I mentioned David R Harper's work which is deeply embedded with references to 19th century cultural history. The Quick + the Dead gave me an opportunity to see some more contemporary taxidermy which like McQueen's video Running Thunder, considers the presence a body can sustain beyond life.

Maurezio Cattelan’s Taxidermied Dog, lays discreetly in a corner of the exhibition. It appears to breath and its disrupts the museum's "White Cube." I thought to myself.. "A dog in the gallery that's crazy.." Then I realized it was dead and my thoughts changed to. "A taxidermeried dog in the gallery that's creepy and awesome!" Cattelan's pieces reminds us that although dogs may be a highly respected animal, they are also just an animal and like most things man touches their companionship becomes a sort of comdity.

Humans of course are rarely stuffed for display but there is a body in this show, albeit a burried one. Anoymous Two, by Chris Martin is an unsettling testisomony to the unknown nature of death. In the gallery is a certificate giving the gps location of a human skeleton that was painted yellow and buried on the Walker's grounds. The skeleton was donated to science then aquired by Kiki Smith and gifted to Chris Martin. The identity of the body is unknown so like Cattelan's dog and McQueen's horse it becomes just an anonymous vessel that once held life.

Jason Dodge’s Four Carat Black Tourmaline and Half-carat Ruby Inside an Owl, like much of the work in the show appeared somewhat mundane until further inspection. Essentially it's a dead owl preserved not to emulate life but to sustain the moments after its death. The artist says that it's body is filled with precious gems. The viewer of course has no way of knowing what is inside the bird so they are left to trust that the artist is telling us the truth.

Pieces by Robert Barry, Harold Edgerton, Robert Hiorns, Stephen Kaltenbach, and Bruce Nauman were also highlights for me. There was so much work that required deep consideration in this exhibit that I can't begin to discuss it all. I hope this show tours so that more people will have an opportunity to check it out. I would love to see this show reconfigured with additional work other collections. The show closes Sunday so if you don't make it to Minneapolis there is an amazing catalog of work of the Quick and the Dead published by the Walker and edited by Peter Eleey that is worth owning. The Walker (like most museums) restricts visitors from taking pictures so I used images from the catalog for this post (which presents a different set of problems I'll ignore). I look forward to their future publications and exhibits and will definitely be making several return trips there while I'm living here in Chicago.

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