Critics’ Picks

Exhibition view.

Exhibition view.

Melbourne

Emily Floyd

Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane
August 4–August 27, 2005

Emily Floyd makes cute sculptures of smart words. In this ambitious show, the young artist's shiny, black-painted wooden letters sit like obedient pets on the concrete floor, spelling out the words of the exhibition title, “A strategy to infiltrate the homes of the bourgeoisie.” The result looks like a Saul Steinberg map of New York made three-dimensional, a model world. This could be too tricky by half, a one-line, sculpturally elongated institutional-critique gag, were it not for the evocative pathos of almost any text—especially a title as resonant of self-reflexive art theory as this—made material object. For Floyd's words look very vulnerable in a sleek, blue-chip commercial gallery, exactly (one suspects) as she calculated. Just as these letters from the alphabet have the miniaturized thrust and gravity of Tony Smith's minimalist sculptures, the same black words' hand-made delicacy is a bow towards the interior worlds of books, literature and narrative, towards the self-enclosed melancholy of writers like Kafka, whose sentences she in fact borrowed to make tabletop sculptures in a previous exhibition, and towards her childhood (she is the daughter of a family of toy-makers). Floyd's career has been justifiably on the ascendant for some time, with installations and tabletops at art museums across Australia, but the didactic thrust of this show was foreshadowed in her 2004 exhibition, “Art School,” in which she asked a Melbourne university professor to write an art theory exam paper to accompany her sculptures. In an ever so sweet way, she takes artistic recuperation as already given, and flatters collectors and critics alike for their perspicacity in assenting to her ingenuous project.