Phranc champions the Pop tradition pioneered by Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg of making the everyday object extraordinary by blending the concerns and methods of appropriation art and craft making to create her personal form of advertising/packaging, food and fashion iconography. She weaves together the literal with the whimsical in order to explore and express her identity through the guise of daily popular culture. The over 20, life-size, two and three-dimensional cardboard and paper constructions/sculptures, made of found cardboard and craft paper, paper bags, pencil, gouache, tempera and acrylic on view explore contemporary obsessions with food, merchandizing, and gender labels both obvious and implied. A self-proclaimed “Cardboard Cobbler” and “All American Jewish Lesbian Folksinger,” both Phranc’s visual art and music encompass a personal form of storytelling full of humorous observations aimed at raising consciousness, triggering response, stimulating memories, and provoking discussion.
In her first New York solo exhibition, works on view comprise objects of desire that the artist once had, wished she had, or wishes she could have. Forms of cultural nostalgia, identity badges, and symbols of both economic elitism and pluralism from three-dimensional, cardboard renditions of souvenirs, clothing, and accessories, to luxury-brand sweets and jewelry will be installed on the walls, as free standing sculptures, as a partial recreation of the artist’s studio ? in the form of a mock retailing display throughout the exhibition. As monikers of the 80’s punk sensibility referencing the artist’s involvement with Los Angeles’s thriving counter-culture music scene at the time, works such as Kilt, 1999 and Leather Jacket, 1999 will be displayed alongside her recent Phranc of California collection of happy-go-lucky, casual sportswear and accessories including a series of striped and checked men’s shirts derived from 1950’s patterns and long coveted by the artist. Celebrating the brash and polish which is New York, selections on view from the artist’s recent New York Collection, will feature a grouping of idiosyncratic souvenirs from sites deliberately off the usual cultural comfort zone map including a series of bucket hats such as one inspired by a trip to Coney Island. Delightful delectables offered exclusively by Phranc of California will also include Box of Fancy Candy, 2007, filled with an eye-catching assortment of chocolates, and stacks of Phranc & Co. Jewelry Boxes, 2007, with one precious, coveted “little blue box” opened to reveal enticing, glittery gold cardboard charms dangling by a thread.
Painting since childhood, Phranc has always been attracted to imagery related to food and advertising, especially those featured in point-of-purchase displays from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. For many years, her work took the form of two-dimensional, gouache on flat “found” cardboard paintings of subjects ranging from objects, food, toys, and advertisements to shoes and underwear. In 1991, the experience of eating a perfect slice of yellow cake inspired her to begin making three-dimensional cardboard and paper constructions/sculptures of various symbols of instant gratification such as comfort and fantasy foods. Two years ago, she began to learn how to sew in order to adopt the actual production processes needed to create clothing out of craft paper with the aid of her grandmother’s portable singer sewing machine.
Both the showmanship and the performative nature of Phranc’s work are reflected in her devotion to detail and choice of materials. Cardboard and craft paper provide the ideal neutral settings for challenging the viewer to explore the implicit dualities at work in shaping perceptions of reality and gender identity through the guise of commonplace objects. For example, Lifejacket, 2006, created during a period in which the artist taught water safety, works on many different ironic levels. While serving as a symbol of survival and protector from gender scrutiny, its flimsy, water soluble shell renders it useless against actual forces of nature.
Each object warrants its own process and flourishes, from a cardboard leather jacket requiring faceting real metal snaps in order to achieve the appropriate weightiness to boots entailing proper fitting grommets. The painstaking patterning process used to create a bolt of paper fabric involves slowly and carefully drawing lines in pencil freehand for yards and yards. In forming her recent series of shirts, she applies and cuts out patterns onto her paper fabric and sews each piece together from the inside out. Phranc likes to refer to her work as a “meditation of making.” While the immediate need to make the object takes hold, and the lengthy period of execution reveals the hand of an artist constantly at play, metaphoric meanings are often times only revealed after the making.