Critics’ Picks

View of “Queening,” 2010. From left: Q02, 2010; Q03, 2010; Q01, 2010.

View of “Queening,” 2010. From left: Q02, 2010; Q03, 2010; Q01, 2010.

New York

Brice Brown and “Sèvres and Savage”

Schroeder Romero & Shredder
531 West 26th Street
October 7–November 13, 2010

Two distinct yet conceptually intertwined exhibitions mark the debut of Schroeder Romero & Shredder’s new location. The front gallery includes works by Brice Brown that subtly explore broad notions of identity and the value of objects as highly unstable. Q03, 2010, is cast from a nineteenth-century side table in sterling silver and is carved with abstract depictions recalling beard hair (a reference to the subculture of hirsute gay men known as bears), which morph into decorative foliage and filigree. In the process, the fetishistic sexual charge associated with the curl of hair becomes simultaneously lost and found—in the same way the value of the antiques the artist reworks in precious metals (from aluminum to bronze to sterling silver) vacillates. Brown plays with notions of class, too, in this cyclical way. By making a large-scale aluminum cast of a crown that represents one of the lower ranks of nobility, he effectively reverses its importance. At the same time, the tattered look of the crown returns it to a less privileged status.

Brown’s references to the permeability of identity in “Queening” are brought into sharper focus by the accompanying exhibition of nineteenth- and mid-twentieth-century porcelains produced by the French factory Sèvres. Everyday objects made from ceramic material became highly coveted status symbols for nineteenth-century French aristocrats, and the value attached to these objects is still palpable; it is difficult not to be in awe of the vases from Louis XVII’s collection. Joining the decorative with fine art, and historical objects with contemporary output, is an ambitious experiment the gallery plans to continue; this current offering is a compelling argument for what such pairings could offer.