Sylvie Obadic, Sept. 16-Oct. 24, 1998, at the Roger Smith Gallery, 501 Lexington Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017.
In her second show at this mid-town gallery, Sylvie Obadic continues her exploration of Americana and its leitmotifs. Obadic was born and raised in France but has lived in Nashville, Tn., for the past five years, and she seems to have taken to our local sporting scene, specifically, the NASCAR circuit, the National Football League, thoroughbred racing, motocross and the rodeo.
In three of the five large works on view here, Obadic collages together pieces of jagged white cotton tee-shirts then places them over grids made from pages of coloring books. This results in vast, painterly fields that look layered and a bit like papier-mâché. She then attaches a handful of unrelated colorful decals to the surface. In one piece, motorboat bounces on invisible waves towards a careening snow skier, for instance, both of which loom above a horserace.
Though spare, the images jump out at the viewer, almost capturing the action and sounds of the sporting events they represent. In another work (untitled, as they all are), a pair of NASCAR autos seem frozen in space above a lone motorcyclist, sparks shooting from his muffler. Below that are three motocross racers trailing a thoroughbred, plumes of dust blowing in the air. Above to the right a strange image of Jesus on the crucifix wearing lacy red underwear and matching red pumps -- upon closer examination it's clear that Jesus' legs have been replaced by those of a curvy female. Next to Jesus is a dancing helmeted race car driver. High above all of these images is a bunch of floating balloons -- or gumballs -- off in the distance.
The two remaining works are overwhelmed with images, recalling painter Christian Schumann's dense arrangement of characters. But Obadic's inventory is more extensive and clichéd -- a panoply of comic book imagery, religious icons, toy soldiers, balloonists, boxers, more racing images, big-hatted society dames you would see at Saratoga and cowboys. Crudely scrawled words are interspersed in crayon and colored marker, some clearly done by children. These more crowded works are less nuanced and lack the punch of Obadic's sparer efforts.
Obadic's take on Americana is filtered through her non-native eyes. Her iconic irony turns the American obsession with sports heroes into a storybook. She has peculiarly glorified the stop-action of the instant replay and the potent sounds of the stadium.