Up Against is an exhibition of new work by Janine Antoni that continues the artist’s exploration of the body as measure. Moving between the monumental and the miniature, the artist’s own body is dwarfed, extended and aligned with various architectural structures. Through these relationships, Antoni explores ideas of destruction, motherhood, and fantasy. In Antoni’s words, “For me, the body becomes a funnel through which the world has been poured.”
Tear is an installation consisting of an 11 foot square video projection of the artist’s eye and a two–ton wrecking ball resting on the ground. Antoni has cast the wrecking ball out of lead, a soft metal, and used it to demolish a building. Unlike an industrial wrecking ball, this one is vulnerable; each strike shows the repercussions of destruction. The sound of the ball crashing against the building is synchronized with the blinking of the eye. The installation includes the eye and ball, but excludes what has been seen and hit. In this way the viewer is left to consider the closing of the eye as either an instinctive physiological reaction against danger, or as a willful turning away from what one does not want to see.
In contrast to the large–scale installation, Antoni has created a small copper sculpture in the form of a gargoyle. The object is hollow in the center and conforms to the shape of a woman’s body; it can be used as a device to allow a woman to urinate standing up. An accompanying photograph of the artist captures her using the gargoyle from a great height. The architecture acts as a pedestal for this exuberant gesture.
With a series of photographs entitled Inhabit, Antoni turns her attention to the complex role of mothering. After years of exploring her relationship to her family, most specifically her mother, Antoni now focuses on herself in this role. In her daughter’s room, Antoni creates a series of situations that repeat at different scales, with slightly different protagonists and a myriad of cross–references. She hangs off the architecture, suspended by a web of ropes, in a harness. Her legs intersect with a fully furnished doll’s house, in whose kitchen a spider has taken up residency. For Antoni, “the substitution of house for skirt allows the mother to wear the family drama.”
Tear premiered as part of Prospect.1, A Biennial for New Orleans, LA in 2008 curated by Dan Cameron; other current and forthcoming exhibitions that include Antoni’s work are Bad Habits curated by Heather Pisante at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, Materials and Meanings at the Dallas Museum of Art and in the Mercosul Biennial in Brazil in October/November 2009. Her work can be seen in the permanent collections of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, NY and Magasin 3, Stockholm.