CHRIS ISNER’S ART IS about the body and its tribulations and pleasures, but unlike other body artists—Robert Gober, Kiki Smith, Matthew Barney—his work does not flow from inside to out- side; he’s not bringing something lurking within to the surface. The interiority or psychology in his work is no deeper than a cut in the skin. “Surface” for Isner does not mean “superficial”; it is the site of meaning, having the same relevance as a good tattoo an acquired externality that encapsulates and symbolizes the person it adorns.

Skin is the central trope in Isner’s work, and is figured in various ways, from the more literal and metonymic to the more metaphoric and abstract. In Urban Integration 2000, 1990, Isner branded his own body. In The Hottest Piece of Ass on the Block, 1992, made for a benefit auction, the initials of the piece’s buyer were to be tattooed on Isner’s buttock. (The piece did

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