Critics’ Picks

Marianne Vitale, How’m-I-Doin’ (detail), 2016, pine, oil paint, hardware, 13 x 8 x 8'.

Marianne Vitale, How’m-I-Doin’ (detail), 2016, pine, oil paint, hardware, 13 x 8 x 8'.

New York

Marianne Vitale

89 Eldridge Street
September 9–October 16, 2016

Handcrafted wooden torpedoes, suspended from the ceiling by wires, and souped up with American kitsch—a cow, a car, and camo—mark an intriguing detour, if not a new direction, in Marianne Vitale’s art. If the big, handsome sculptures made from salvaged lumber for which she is best known are strong, silent types, How’m-I-Doin’, 2016, her new installation of ten hand-painted projectiles, is comic, even a little snarky. Here, the splintery romance that characterized Vitale’s countrified totems of postindustrial wreckage is jettisoned for colorful, willfully naive Pop and playful satire. A bovine missile, decked out in Holstein black and white, is authenticated with the imprimatur “USDA Prime,” the summa cum laude of American beef. Another pirates the allover gestural drips of heroic American painter and Cold War cultural weapon Jackson Pollock.

Some works—one emblazoned with Nascar checkers, hot-rod flames, and a quotation from Revelations 20:15 (warning of the fiery lake awaiting the damned); another with the American flag and Uncle Sam’s notorious conscription slogan, “I Want You”—read as genial jokes about contemporary God-’n’-guns–style cultural politics and US adventurism abroad. Others invoke the visual culture of World War II GIs, who decorated warplanes with puerile jokes and randy cartoons as a method of psychic insulation from death. The phallic insinuations of Vitale’s torpedoes become more explicit in a steel-gray projectile decorated with a bikini-clad cutie-pie straddling a priapic missile—a burlesque of the cheesecake pinups that once sexed up the noses of Allied bombers.