Michelle Mayer's middle-class home installation at Women & Their Work offers aesthetic and conceptual strength and shows Mayer at her very best
Reviewed by Jacqueline May, Fri., Feb. 11, 2005
Women & Their Work Art Gallery, through Feb. 12
For this exhibition, artist Michelle Mayer has transformed Women & Their Work's pristine space into a comfortable middle-class home environment with rooms replicating the type of rooms found in such a home: living room, bathroom, etc. Each has been outfitted with surprising attention to carpentry and with paintings and photographs that further support the artist's concepts. Also in each room are video installations that use the concept of "home" as subject matter, in a variety of differing permutations. In the dining room, for example, the video work Anthem displays a paired set of projections, one documenting a Fourth of July display, the other bombs bursting in the Baghdad campaign. The image is accompanied in sound by the Star Spangled Banner. The comparison of the two forms of patriotic activity serves as a thoughtful reminder that our own nation was born in violence. In a different take on "home," focusing on community, a video work titled Grill invites the viewer to sit alongside a couple whose video images are projected to form a circle around a backyard cookout, under simulated evening light. In a tucked-away closet, a video surveillance system records the movement of visitors.
In the bedroom, a video is projected down into a suitcase for 5 Minutes. This fascinating documentary project records what participants would select to take with them if forced to leave home in five minutes with only the contents of that bag. The resulting imagery and the shifting choices form a revealing portrait of the participant's inner values. In the bathroom area, in a medicine cabinet, resides Pussy Control, a personal favorite despite a mild shortage of nuance in its title. This artwork features a video of a package of birth control pills being rhythmically advanced and punched out with a click. It's a visual/tactile thing, very hypnotic and satisfying a lot like popping the bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap. This excellent artwork offers both aesthetic and conceptual strength and shows Mayer at her very best.