Eran Shakine | Sunny Side Up
Opening Reception: Friday, Apr. 27, 2012
Text by: Nuit Banai
The series devoted to artists is perhaps the most transparent meditation on this theme. Much like a family gathering, there is a sense that Shakine is delving into a shared gene pool and exploring the affinities and contretemps that pervade familiar relations. A witty rejoinder to popular clichés about the majesty of the artistic process, these images expose the rarely seen fragility, isolation, and unceremonious conservation that goes hand in hand with aesthetic production. For instance, the existential bravado of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, largely formed by Hans Namuth’s portraits from 1951, is summarily dispelled. In place of an inexhaustible choreography, we witness Pollock stretching his tired, aching back. Likewise, the aura of conceptual genius with which Marcel Duchamp has been anointed is transformed into sheer happenstance as he ‘discovers’ the readymade during a visit to the men’s bathroom; Josef Alber’s Homage to the Square materializes not so much from Bauhaus techniques, principles, and aspirations, but more prosaically in the semblance of a bright, yolky egg cooked sunny side up; and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica would not have become an anti- Fascist cri de coeur without the artist having clean brushes at hand. The delib- erations continue: What are the chances that Andy Warhol would have become a poster boy for Pop Art had he been born in the Middle East? Do we have faith in Joseph Beuys’ claims for mystical communion with a dead hare or, for that matter, with his public? And how would post-war art in Britain have turned out if Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore had not met at the Saint Martin’s School of Art in 1967? In these comical speculations, Shakine earnestly ponders whether art is an outcome of ‘genius,’ as some myths would have us believe, or whether it emerges from fortuitous events, uncertain situations, and an incredible amount of strenuous labor that only becomes minted as ‘virtuosic’ in retrospect.
In the series devoted to architects and fashion designers, Shakine suggests that the mystique of genius can only be sustained if we believe that a work of art leads an autonomous existence independently of its maker. To disembody the most eminent buildings and renowned couture of the twentieth century is to miss out on the more compelling and often zany aspects of creativity. Literally turning this lost opportunity on its head, Shakine coifs alpha-architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Norman Foster, and Zaha Hadid with headpieces that resemble their own structural achievements. Similarly, he outfits fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, and John Galliano in their signature pieces. Shakine’s reattachment of modernist and contemporary masterworks to their inventor’s body, whether as millinery appendages or sartorial statements, prompts us to wonder whether academic histories can fully account for the tactile, sensual, desiring flows and fantasies from which cultural enterprises arise. Yet it would be going too far to suggest that Shakine links the meaning of aesthetic objects to the explicit intentionality of their authors or to the complicit interven- tion of the body. The quirky, compromising positions of his figures are probably not ones they would devise for themselves. But what if we caught them unaware? Indeed, the spectator is invited to join Shakine as an artful partner in crime and inquisitive voyeur; one fascinated by the libidinal undercurrents coursing unde- tected and unpatrolled through the channels of artistic expression.