Rachel Harrison: The Great Amalgamator

David Salle at the NYRB:

Rachel Harrison: I’m with Stupid, 2007

It’s funny how durable the figurative is in art—it’s a reassuring presence, hovering protectively over the wilder exploits. The artist Rachel Harrison makes sculptures that are grounded in figurative forms but that are not representational in any traditional sense. Many of her pieces start with a columnar vertical core of approximately human proportions and are constructed out of fractured planes; it’s a language that reaches back to Picasso’s Cubist sculpture Glass of Absinthe (1914). Sometimes the built core is a horizontal lump of rough-textured, faceted polystyrene that resembles a meteorite on legs, to which she affixes any number of visual counterpoints: wigs, sneakers, flashlights, safety vests, modems, digital photos, and other hoarder’s junk. Her works are accumulations of several different kinds of materials, some formed, others found; they don’t portray anything more than their own meandering thoughts. They have wit and an awkward charm. You take the work in quickly, like an exclamation point. Occasionally it stings, but only for a minute.

Harrison’s starting point is a feeling of disconnectedness, estrangement, and simmering revolt fed by a finely cultivated disgust. The disgust is tempered by humor; it’s gleeful and semi-inclusive. Her work feels familiar, part of a long tradition, and also of the moment—what absurdity looks like has to be reinvented for each generation.

more here.