Elliott Arkin, "The Slide Show," Apr. 15-May 22, 2004, at Artek Contemporaries, 526 West 26th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001
In a New York art world marked by all the fulsome chattiness and cattiness of the French court of the July Monarchy, Elliott Arkin is our Charles Philipon. Dubbed the father of political caricature for his scathing cartoons of the monarchy, Philipon would have been proud to have produced the sculptural caricatures of prominent art-world figures that constitute Arkin's current exhibition at Artek Contemporaries gallery in Chelsea. Take, for instance, the cookie jar depicting a voracious Charlie Finch devouring Mary Boone. He cracks her fine bones between his sharp teeth the way he tears through art-world hypocrisies in his reviews in Artnet Magazine.
Arkin's cartoons have appeared on Artnet since 2000, when he depicted Philippe de Montebello, Agnes Gund and Thomas Hoving nude in an "art sauna" at P.S. 1 (for more samples, see our Elliott Arkin archive). The show at Artek features several of the original sculptures he made for the magazine, including the figure of one "Mathew Bunny" who leaps above larva-like jellybeans in Arkin's Happy Cremeaster Easter parody. Pinned to the gallery wall, this spry Loki-like figure perfectly parodies the dubious integrity of Barney's art. Seen in the flesh, Arkin's work has more than wit to recommend it, since his dexterous talent elevates his caricatures over their punch-lines.
But the primary subject of his Artek show is a series of finely crafted miniature figures of art notables, figures that stand inside the ca. one-inch opening of actual, plastic slide mounts. This project playfully retaliates against the universal art-world tendency to reduce artists to the truncated form of a photographic slide of their work. Arkin's slide-sized art world includes art prankster Maurizio Cattelan, Picasso (in his underwear), art-world lawyer Joe Rubin, former MoMA curator Robert Storr, artists Tom Otterness and Vito Acconci, and even the esteemed art magazine editor (and my boss) Walter Robinson. The figures are carved in the round in colored clay, and can also be rotated for a 360-degree view using tiny handles.
But the satirical bite is in the details. Whether minute or massive, Arkin's portrait of a runty Andy Warhol with simian features seems deceptively diminutive and demure. Nina Katchadourian, an artist responsible for the notion of "animal cross-dressers," that is, mice trying to "pass" as snakes, for instance, leans outside the perimeters of her slide like a hybrid between an artist and the Fonz. And the Tom Friedman slide initially appears empty because Arkin has done his own version of Friedman's 2000 Untitled construction paper sculpture of the artist's shattered corpse.
The slide pieces are unique, and available for $1,700 each. His Cremeaster 6 figure is $750 in an edition of ten. The Charlie Finch cookie jar is $1,700.
ANA FINEL HONIGMAN is assistant editor at Artnet Magazine.