Posted On April 25, 2012
Pamela Rosenkranz is a rigorously conceptual Swiss artist who nevertheless has a lot to say about our bodies. She works in various media, creating works that take a skeptical and/or satirical look at postwar painting.
That was the case in one of her recent exhibits – “This is Not My Color” – at the Swiss Institute in New York. The color in question is blue. The cult artist Yves Klein had a shade of it patented in 1956. Yves Klein once said (in his Chelsea Manifesto) that birds passing across the sky above him “tried to bore holes in my greatest and most beautiful work” – the blue sky itself.
For Rosenkranz, Klein is a study in subjectivity and the modern artist as a self-conscious creator of brands. “I asked myself, why is this artist upset with those birds?” she told A magazine. “Why should the birds be threatening his appropriation? Klein functions as model here for the self of a modern artist that has subjectivity at its core. It’s very obvious in the attempt to brand his own color.”
“Because They Try to Bore Holes” is a photo print of a Klein painting. Rosenkranz has rendered it almost unrecognizable beneath layers of Ralph Lauren latex paint mixed with sugar-rich soft drinks.
“The soft drinks point to the material process of thinking itself as the metabolic currency that underlies the conception, production and perception of the artwork,” she explains. “The brain requires energy and therefore needs sugar to burn. In other words, glucose must be burned in order to generate, develop and view the work itself.”
In two other installations – “The Most Important Body of Water is Yours” and “Firm Being” – Rosenkranz deconstructs Evian bottled water.
“These works focus on the universal topic of water,” says the artist. “I made the large-sized works on spandex, on which shapes in different skin tones were applied in a mix of painting and printing. Spandex is as much a unique material as it functions as a second skin. At the same time it has a strong reference to water, because it is either used for bathing or for activities in which you sweat.”
There are brightly colored paintings on the spandex. Each piece is cut to the standard measurement of an emergency blanket. “The stains on the clothes are evocative of body shapes and obtain a human component particularly due to the coloring in different skin tones,” says Rosenkranz. “The term ‘skin tone’ is a representation of the image of human bodies, of the skin as the surface of the body.”
The colors of the spandex fabrics are taken from the color scale of Evian. “They represent the identity of the water brand, mediated by commercials,” she adds.
The spandex-series circles around the sculptural work “Firm Being”: an Evian bottle filled with skin-colored silicone.
“It reduces the idea of water as being capable of cleansing the body into an absurd mantra,” explains Rosenkranz, “in which you drink a skin-toned milky liquid – something like one’s own body – over and over.”