Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Plaid by Elana Herzog at Smack Mellon

By Zac Willis

Elana Herzog’s work entitled Plaid is showing at the Smack Mellon Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. The show also includes Peter Dudek. When you enter the gallery you must pass through Dudek’s work to get to Herzog’s work. The gallery is divided in two parts to accommodate each of the artists. Once you reach Herzog’s work you encounter areas with organic shapes and forms that are comprised of fabric and staples. They are positioned in different locations throughout the room. It was not until I moved closer to the pieces that I realized what they consisted of. Plaid is an installation comprised of several different sizes of this fabric and staples layered on top of one other and then pulled or cut from the wall. What is left is what the artist could not remove. The removal process is important to the piece because it adds certain layer of aesthetic to it. When she staples many times in one place it breaks down the wall and it results in chunks missing from the wall. This shows the destruction of the overlapping process. However, in order to discuss her process, it needs to be clear if she uses an electric or hand powered staple gun. This is very important to in knowing how much Herzog understands the overlapping and layering she is doing. If she used the hand stapler it would demonstrate that she is more consciously aware of where she is putting each staple and understands the relationships formed between the body, staple gun, staple, fabric and the wall. To use a manual staple gun creates a great physical strain on the body. By doing this, there becomes a connection between the body and wall because by stapling it repeatedly, it also experience great strain. This connection would be lost if she just used and electric staple gun. In theory someone could staple 1,000 staples and not even break a sweat. How could she form a connection to the work if she did not physically feel the creation-taking place? When I viewed the space I wondered if it was created for Herzog, or if it was original to the gallery. To describe the space; it was a small square room with white walls. There where platforms that where 3” or 4” off the ground and an awkward half wall with what looked like a non-structural column. The work itself meshed nicely with the awkward walls and columns in the room. The piece seemed too site specific not to have been designed for her. If she did not design it, Herzog controlled the space well using it to her advantage. It was refreshing that she made it seem like she controlled this aspect of the work. With an installation piece like Herzog’s I find it important for the artist to know how much their process of making the work can affect the viewers read of the art.

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