Josephine Meckseper, Shelf #31, 2005, mixed media on metal shelf 23.75” x 60” x 14”. Courtesy of James Wagner.
For her new exhibition, entitled %, the artist will transform the gallery into an environment redolent of both consumer capitalism and political protest. Starting with the façade, Meckseper will alter the windows of Elizabeth Dee Gallery to resemble the dramatic display windows of an upscale department store. Mixing semantic codes, the objects on display in one window will seem to sell a vision of current American politics, while the other will offer images of an oppositional culture of protest and references to the women’s correctional facility across the street. Vinyl lettering suggests the monolithic encroachment of a homogenizing globalism in a leveraged buyout and merger of New York’s most prominent museum, gallery, and exhibition sponsor.
Inside, Koolhaasian wood paneling, mirrored tiles, and mannequins sardonically recall the spectacle of “avant garde” architecture in the service of retail, while a papered wall combines reminders of an obsolescent cold war with the pattern of kefiyah scarves favored by Palestinians and protesting hipsters alike. Mirrored display cubes and wall-mounted shelves round out the complement of fixtures, but on them consumer products are juxtaposed side-by-side with paintings, collages, sculptures, and photographs evoking counter-cultural activity, including the artist’s own documentary images from the anti-war protest in Washington on September 24 of this year.
Meckseper’s work equates our induced desire for fashion and luxury goods with the manipulations of media-driven ruling regimes, but it likewise compares both of these to their supposed antithesis in political protest movements. Partisan politics is just another status symbol. Radicalism quickly becomes radical chic, which is presented as just another formal element to be fetishized and sold in a museum cum gallery cum boutique that nostalgically samples utopian dreams from the Russian Constructivists to 1960s hippies. As the curators of the 2005 Lyon Biennale write,
in Meckseper’s work politics becomes a style, and commitment an object to be displayed in a chic display cabinet, suggestive of those in museums and ethnographic societies. Through this approach, Meckseper explores the questionable links the media establish between images of political news, the fashion industry and advertising.
This is Josephine Meckseper’s second solo show at Elizabeth Dee. Her work has recently been included in Experiencing Duration: Biennale d’art contemporain de Lyon 2005 , curated by Nicolas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans; Die Neue Republik, Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg, Germany; The Future Has a Silver Lining: Genealogies of Glamour , curated by Heike Munder and Tom Holert, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; and Nation, curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen, Kunstverein Frankfurt, Frankfurt. A solo exhibition of her work was held at Galerie Reinhard Hauff in Stuttgart in 2004, accompanied by the publication of The Josephine Meckseper Catalogue by Lukas & Sternberg. Josephine Meckseper lives and works in New York.
Related blog posts: James Wagner