Sunday, July 20, 2008

China Syndrome II: The Unravelling

I probably should have posted this while the show was still up, but you can get an idea at the Steve Turner Contemporary website and get a fuller picture of China's oeuvre over at ACE.

“It started with this idea that I had when I was in debt from all this health stuff [a bout with anemia], and just always scrounging for money, and never getting out of this small space. And then this thought I’ve always had about advertising: how so much of what people buy is an idea about what is going to happen when, like, ‘If I get the right gown and if I ever go to Cancun, this’ll look fabulous!’ And I wondered, could I create this whole thing all from right here? I do the pictures here, do the whole composites here, I print it here, the clothes are all made here. So it’s like this complete imagined exotic journey that all takes place in my apartment.”

This ad absurdum DIY philosophy will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Adams’ oeuvre. At 30-something, she boasts an unusually long string of solo exhibits — due to the fact that her first was at age 23, while she was still attending UCLA as an undergraduate. Her pivotal work was a classic in what might be called stripped-down performative design — the kind of event that derives a wealth of conceptual significance and emotional impact from a slight shift of the spatial relationship between 2- or 3-D objects. (Think Chris Burden’s arm and a copper-jacket .22 long-rifle bullet or Jeffrey Vallance’s relocation of Blinky the Friendly Hen from supermarket display to pet cemetery.)

In Adams’ Official Cannibal Status (1993), the object in question was a tiny chunk of human flesh donated by a fellow student, which Adams — a vegetarian since childhood — displaced into her digestive tract in front of witnesses, then documented with a framed, notarized affidavit, triggering one of our species’ deepest taboos with a clinical and bureaucratic dispassion bridling with Kafkaesque irony. The elegant formal economy of Adams’ gesture notwithstanding, it was the work’s unrepentant theatricality, outrageous humor and narrative conceit that made it remarkable in the dry context of conceptualist-art practice. It doesn’t get much juicier than raw meat...

Read the rest here.

Flights of Fancy, 2008, Installation Shot (Steve Turner Contemporary)
Ms. American Woman: The Winners Circle, 1998, Photograph, Pumps, Vitrine & Notarized Certificate (ACE Gallery)
Official Cannibal Status, 1993 (Detail), Ink on Paper (ACE Gallery)

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