Critics’ Picks

View of “The Shapes Project and The Natural Copies of the Coal Mines of Central Utah,” 2013.

View of “The Shapes Project and The Natural Copies of the Coal Mines of Central Utah,” 2013.


Allan McCollum

Galerie Mitterrand
79, rue du Temple
May 12–June 29, 2013

Over one thousand framed monoprints of polymorphic forms are arranged into nine rows that line the walls of this gallery, transforming it into a sort of wunderkammer reduced to a conceptualist aesthetic. These thousand some works are merely a small sampling from Allan McCollum’s ongoing and ambitious “The Shapes Project,” 2005–, the product of a combinational system the artist developed to create thirty billion unique shapes for each person on the planet, based on the estimated 2050 global population. Dark solids against a white background, the shapes’ anomalous contours resemble the silhouette profile that became popular during nineteenth-century industrialization—a cheaper and more expedient alternative to miniature portraiture painting. McCollum presents these permutations as a visual genealogical account, using serial reproduction to blur the distinction between common ancestries. In addition, twelve sculptures are arranged in the center of the gallery. Made of plywood, the figures command inspection of their material and formal qualities, each possessing their own morphological personality though bound by a look of common manufacture.

On the lower level of the gallery are a series of multicolored French articles from scientific journals that offer experts’ conflicting opinions on the taxonomical provenance of dinosaur fossils discovered in Utah in the early 1920s. McCollum created sculptural models of each extremity and later painted them in a range of bright artificial hues that mimic the paper on which the journal essays were reproduced. Appropriating these footprints as molds for sculpture, McCollum investigates the transitive and contextual relationships between the organic and serially fabricated as found geological remains have the potential to be reproduced and repackaged into seductive and entirely discreet art objects.