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Back to Reviews 96






Installation view
Yoshii Gallery,
1996




























Nest, 1995




























Bunny I, 1996




























Bunny Case, 1996




portia munson   
at yoshii gallery 


by Paul H-O


This show helps confirm something I've 

been saying since January: that New 

York's uptown scene is off the drip feed 

and even jumping spryly after an 

attempted art triple-bypass (SoHo, Chelsea 

& Brooklyn). The Yoshii Gallery is part of
 
the new blood on the street and Portia 

Munson's installation "The Garden"

provides more juice to Spring than even
 
Spring itself. 


Munson's installation at Yoshii is a logical 

progression from her sculptural 

phantasmagoria that caught the art-

world's interest at the New Museum's 

"Bad Girls" show last year. In that 

exhibition she presented a 20-foot-long 

tableau of everything pink-and-cosmetic 

aimed at the Barbie Doll syndrome school 

of beauty. It was the visual equivalent of 

a landscape that leaves a burning 

sensation in your mind. It was simply hot. 


Her new work carries her visual theory of 

feminine mythology to pathological 

lengths. I would call it maximum muumuu
 
madness. There is no moment of transition 

more jarring than that first step into the 

gallery garden hundreds of flower-print
 
dresses sewn together that cover every 

square foot of wall and ceiling. Tent-like, 

close, it's a bedroom boudoir for the 

Arabian Nights in Waikiki. And that's just
 
the beginning. Thousands of stuffed

animals (mostly bunnies) and artificial 

flowers in a variety of sculptural 

permutations vie for attention along with 

paintings and feminine gewgaws on every

surface. The floor is carpeted with throw-

rugs made toy-bunny pelts (made from 

the flattened carcasses of disemboweled 

bunny dolls). The effect: Laura Ashley on
 
LSD, total manic-femininity implosion
 
with Victorian mood-lighting.


The installation is throbbing with fertility
 
symbols galore. The libido, like mine for 

instance, became contorted like a pretzel,
 
or so I imagined, because this is one 

potent garden. This carefully constructed 

bonzai ikebana is in fact overabundant
 
and consuming to the point of

claustrophobia. Its bed is completely 

swallowed by bunnies, the vanities
 
overflow with femininities, and yes,
 
Rebecca, the dark edge of this scene is 

consumption, sexual obsession and social 

distortion plus! 


Hello Scarlet, meet Flannery O'Connor. 

Munson's dream is reminiscent of Mike 

Kelley's stuffed animal sculptures and Jeff 

Koons's kitsch objects, but the association 

to trash-culture is too easy to get stuck on. 

Munson's is a more intimate relationship
 
with a street esthetic created by abundant 

material wealth juxtaposed with poverty
 
and abundant mental illness. Her show 

includes a glass case filled with squashed 

bunnies--flat, rectangular, abstract and 

patterned, a frenzied composition. There 

are paintings but they get swallowed in 

the miasma. There's also a video of 

flowers in various stages of orgiastic 

abandon but even television gets buried 

with everything else. It's a new art genre, 

Maximalism. The only tilt in this game is 

the stuffed animal gambit and its 
 
overpopulation in contemporary art. Not a 

big problem because after this show there 

won't be any stuffed animals left.


 


Paul H-O is a New York artist who 

produces and stars in Art TV Gallery Beat, 

appearing on Manhattan Public Access 

Cable Television channel 16, Weds. 12
 
midnight and Sat. 4:30 p.m.