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JH

Focussed Priapic Vivian

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Alex Vivian, An oversized jacket. Jeans, that fit, 2011, installation at Hopkinson Cundy. Alex Vivian, An approach to Portraiture (Travis Fimmel), 2011, vaseline, framed poster, 700 x 570 mm Alex Vivian, Muted silhouette, with hat, 2011, fabric, hat, metal, plastic, 800 x 270 x 320 mm Alex Vivian, An oversized jacket. Jeans, that fit, 2011, installation at Hopkinson Cundy. Alex Vivian, The ear (of David) with scaly leftovers, 2011, glass, clothing, plaster, wood, socks, 800x 180 x 180 mm Alex Vivian, Classic vases with gesture (of body form), 2011, glass vases, socks, 540 x 100 x 100 mm Alex Vivian, Only a form. Not human or a being.. Male? (A Structure?) Merely stuffing in glass to help it "sit" right, 2011, clothing, concealed grease stains, glass, 290 x 150 x 150 mm Alex Vivian, A wall... Visited, leant against etc. etc., 2011, denim stain, 4500 x 2700 mm Alex Vivian, An emblem towards movement, 2011, metal, socks, rubber, 600 x 390 mm Alex Vivian, Scales - to stand, 2011, socks, glass scales, 340 x 340 mm Alex Vivian, A man is sitting down (with his back to us), 2011, arm stocking, vase, socks, 270 x 170 x 170 mm

Implied body friction plays a big role too. Lubricating vaseline is rubbed over a framed photograph of Calvin Klein model Travis Fimmel, and onto gallery windows, and one large wall is subtly covered with faint blue dye transferred from jeans rubbed energetically over its entire surface - as if some sort of spirited denim-clad orgy has occurred with winged weightless participants.

Auckland

 

Alex Vivian
An oversized jacket. Jeans, that fit.

 

2 September - 1 October 2011

This exhibition carries on with themes explored in Alex Vivian’s last show in Auckland, in Gambia Castle last year. Again preoccupied with homoeroticism and fetishism, but less wide in interpretive possibilities, and less humorous in its treatment of clothing, this Melbourne artist is now looking more at traditional sculpture and various innovative possibilities of its form - using codes of erotic desire, but with clinical glassware, like some olfactory intoxicated, clothing sniffing scientist.

Unlike the scattered piles of apparel in the Gambia show this presentation is formally precise in its placement. Again white socks hog the spotlight, now in the form of plinth loaded sculpture with other clothing (soccer singlets and underpants) crammed into clear glass jars or vases, or pulled over their outsides. Sometimes they are jammed into crevices within glass bathroom scales or stretched across metal lawn mower handles, suggesting at times feverishly yanked on or (with vases) distended condoms.

The work is more a celebration of fetishism and gay horniness than an enquiry, and in this country, continues the sexual themes Christchurch artist Grant Lingard explored with men’s Y-front underpants in the early nineties. Vivian though has more of a French sensibility, with connections (coincidental or otherwise) with Lavier’s plinths and Arman’s glass containers. With a nod perhaps to Matthew Barney

Implied body friction plays a big role here. Lubricating vaseline is rubbed over a framed photograph of Calvin Klein model Travis Fimmel, and onto gallery windows, and one large wall is subtly covered with faint blue dye transferred from jeans rubbed energetically over its entire surface - as if some sort of spirited denim-clad orgy has occurred with winged weightless participants. Even the tubular nature of the sock-covered glass jars - in this context and with discreetly loaded titles - has rectal overtones.

In relation to the human body and its more intimate activities, sculpture is thoroughly explored here. Vivian’s inventiveness reminds of the virtuoso improvisation by Sarah Lucas at Two Rooms earlier this year. His instinct seems always formally ‘right’ but with an added, sometimes provocative, narrative.

One bust has a male profile cut in plastic glued to translucent fabric, attached to a stool and wearing a finely patterned black woollen hat. Another is more ostensibly abstract, featuring a tall jar containing scrunched up singlets, topped by a rod encased in a sock holding up a distinctive plaster ear from Michelangelo’s David. It (and others) exude a sort of priapic and tense, schematic alertness.

This is a classy exhibition; a good example of coded materials semiotically combined to be wittily accentuated by successful formal dynamics, conveniently supportive ‘white cube’ conventions and cunning masturbatory titles. Sound like a contradiction? Check it out.

John Hurrell

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This Discussion has 2 comments.

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Andrew Paul Wood, 3:28 a.m. 26 September, 2011

Speaking of Grant Lingard, time for a retrospective survey methinks. He pretty much said all of the above first and in a far less sympathetic climate.

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John Hurrell, 8:26 a.m. 26 September, 2011

Grant was very much a Kiwi, with his references to the All Blacks, Sunlight soap etc. A different feel from Alex's which is very contemporary, more minimal and restrained - and slightly forensic. (Here we have State Exhibit A etc.)

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