Friday, November 30, 2012


The labyrinthine rooms at MoMA PS1 are lined with an exhibition titled New Pictures of Common Objects, an aptly named collection of works in media as diverse as photography, sculpture, video and installations, many of which contain common, everyday objects for which the show is named. The works attempt to create a dialogue referring to the state of the world today based on its forms of communication and technology. Trisha Baga, Lucas Blalock, Josh Kline, Margaret Lee, and Helen Marten, the five young artists represented in this contemporary show, convey the effects that both new and old forms of mass communication have on the state of the world and this young generation that now lives within its interconnected confines. Margaret Lee and Josh Kline are two artists represented that specifically capture the consumerism of common technological devices in powerful and humorous manners.

By focusing on everyday objects and readymades, one artist in particular conveys the state of the world’s correspondence. Margaret Lee, a young New York-based artist, creates appropriated art, producing works that become humorous renditions of common items. Her collection of pieces in the show, such as Cucumber Phone and Eggplant Phone, Lee produces humorous telephones shaped as vegetables; one hangs on a wall, another sits on the entryway table- locations one would expect the telephone to be. However, she spins the notion of talking on the phone into one of complete absurdity. Cucumber Phone has a very realistic pickle as a handle; Eggplant Phone is entirely shaped like its namesake. Both of these objects are situated in a room reminiscent of a grandmother’s living room that is complete with wallpaper and floral arrangements, with few details spared in creating a specific sentimental ambiance.  By handling her collection of witty, culinary-inspired sculptures of semi-readymade in this way, Lee highlights outdated forms of communication, while appropriating the technology of yesteryear and filling a new void, recycling to create nostalgia.

Contrasted with Margaret Lee’s telephones are Josh Kline’s pigmented silicone works, Creative Hands. These eerie, disembodied hands hold various technological devices, such as cameras and remote controls, which are lined on stark white shelves similar to what one would see in a supermarket or convenience store. An interesting commentary on the consumer nature of society fitting for the overall exhibition, this critique of consumer culture strikes an uncomfortable nerve in the viewer. Rapid advancements in technology create more desire for objects, and a fear the removal of these objects from our hands. Even when on display in such a sterile space, people cannot stop their preoccupation with items. Though Kline’s hands are unnerving, he also includes the amusing aspect that allows each viewer to laugh at himself/herself, as he or she uses their own pieces of technology to document the critique on this very gesture.

Both these young artists have much to say about mass communication and consumerism. Through the redundant visualization of technological devices, Margaret Lee and Josh Kline have created entertaining yet critical atmospheres in which the viewer feels simultaneously comfortable and on edge.  With the state of high-tech correspondence today, and the ease at which one is able to connect with another, it is a reminder not only of how far our technology has come, but also of the current frenzy to stay connected to one another.



  1. I appreciate the tight focus on these two artists and the works you selected. It strengthens your argument to limit it in this way. I think you should make it a bit clearer, however, that these are not the only artists in the show. Maybe mention it explicitly in the conclusion, tying the show overall to your points about Kline and Lee. I also feel that the paragraph on Kline is stronger. I think this may be because you describe the piece before analyzing it, whereas in the preceding paragraph about Margaret Lee, the formal description comes after the conceptual ideas. Simply switching the sentence order would, I think, make the paragraph clearer.

  2. This is a good discussion of the two works you selected. However, I would have liked to see you spend a little more time analyzing their inclusion in the show with respect to some of the other types of work/artists who were exhibited. Maybe to point out that the inclusion of these works with reference to someone who displayed photography or video would bolster your argument that these two artists had the strongest work in the show because they were object-based. Also, try to pay a little more attention to your word choice, getting rid of some of the redundancy will help your argument to flow a little better.