Critics’ Picks

View of “Travis Jeppesen: 16 Sculptures,” 2014.

View of “Travis Jeppesen: 16 Sculptures,” 2014.

London

Travis Jeppesen

Wilkinson Gallery
50-58 Vyner Street
July 2–August 17, 2014

Combining modernism’s obsession with ritual and a bitingly humorous, but nevertheless intensely critical, cast of art-historical characters, Travis Jeppesen’s “16 Sculptures” exhibits a freshness that is largely absent in hyper-conceptual contemporary installation shows.

Each of the sixteen works on display consists of a chair, a vinyl record, headphones to listen to an mp3 recording, and blackout glasses, which together turn the gallery into a Blues Brothers convention. Artists as diverse as James Turrell, Isa Genzken, and Auguste Rodin have had their works transformed by Jeppesen into incantatory poems that, as the result of a sophisticated mixing process, reverberate and crackle like a priest giving a sermon through an unholy amplifier.

A special treat is Venus of Willendorf / Artist Unknown, 2014, a decidedly different take on Jeff Koons’s iteration of the famous statuette as a container for Dom Pérignon champagne. Jeppesen, speaking to us as the Venus of Willendorf herself, melancholically states, “Grazing on contradictions, I am skin without organs, worth more than diamonds, and yet nothing—female without sheen. The first phallus and the last to bleed. Touch without tactility.” Venus embodied by Jeppesen thinks of herself as “a fat bitch for the world to abuse with its eyes,” thereby addressing head-on the politics of neoprimitivism and misogyny by which the unfortunate Venus, and countless other representations of women, have been confined. Jeppesen leaves us wondering who speaks for artworks and, perhaps more important, how they speak.