Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Elmgreen & Dragset: Changing Subjects, The FLAG Arts Foundation

Elgreen & Dragset, Watching, 2016

The Chelsea Arts Tower is a twenty-story high-rise in the heart of one of the world’s biggest art districts. Entering felt like walking into an expensive apartment building. Going up to the ninth floor to see Elmgreen & Dragset’s show, Changing Subjects at the FLAG Arts Foundation, triggered different feelings than I normally have while gallery hopping. The elevator doors opened to a well-lit area facing an ATM machine above a baby in a carrier. A security guard next to the elevator welcomed me and encouraged me to look closer.

Elmgreen & Dragset’s hyper-realistic sculptures populated the gallery space and extend out onto the terrace. A highly-polished stainless steel sculpture of a boy with binoculars looks out over the Hudson River as the clouds break reflecting bits of the blue sky and the city. Back inside, there was a sculpture of a young boy standing in his underwear and his mother’s high heels having just applied lipstick. Facing a mirror, he can see his reflection and the wall of a morgue with one of the cold chamber drawers pulled out holding a body.

After leaving, I found myself thinking about these sculptures more and more. The appeal of these objects as immediately identifiable betrays their intimacy. The ATM with abandoned child; the young boy in front of the mirror; the lifeguard scanning the horizon leaning out of his chair moments before leaping into action; even the pairs of pants resting on the floor next to one another all present moments of voyeurism for the viewer that induce curiosity. These sculptures represent moments of transition, defining moments in the assumed lives of these hyper-realistic figures. They give us just enough to wonder what could have been happening before and what will happen next.


  1. I appreciate that you described the location and atmosphere of the gallery’s building. Entering it really did set us up for a kind of first impression of wealth in the art market. I guess I expected a painting or a sculpture show that reflected more of mainstream Chelsea’s taste. Instead, we got uncanny hyperrealistic sculptures. Maybe you could talk more about how the sculptures themselves affected you in their configurations. Their hyperreal aspects were impressive, but the way they were set up lent itself to many interpretations. Also maybe mention the sculpture of the corpse in a morgue that was next to the sculpture of the little boy looking in a mirror. That room was very visceral.

  2. I really like how your writing brings us from the sidewalk into the gallery and focuses on the experience created by the art and the location. Your descriptions of the sculptures helps me visualize the exhibit and understand the hyper-realistic effect that characterizes them. I get the sense though that you have more to say about them when you say you kept thinking about them – I want to know what sorts of thoughts the art provoked in your mind, what kind of conclusions were you able to come to, if any? I think there is space for these thoughts to be conveyed if the beginning three paragraphs were written more succinctly.