New York

Ann McCoy

Brooke Alexander

Ann McCoy’s artworks seem to be finished products, self-sufficient in their objecthood; yet they would more accurately be described as traces of a process that is itself the real work. Her images are generally found or borrowed—from Egyptian tomb paintings, Greco-Roman mystery religions, alchemical texts and illustrations, and so on-but not in the usual Post-Modem sense of quotation or appropriation. They present themselves to the artist’s attention through an ancient process that theologians have called incubation: a controlled use of sleeping to obtain dream images of special relevance to either a therapeutic or a prophetic goal. McCoy practices incubation systematically, often in conjunction with a Jungian analyst. She focuses on images that are emphasized in her dreams through narrative framing or recurrence, traces them down in the world’s iconography, then follows out the threads of associations.

Here she exhibited eight products of the process, two colored-pencil drawings and six cast-bronze sculptural groups. The larger of the drawings, Coeur de lion, 1985, shows a scene of ritual sacrifice: a lion-headed messiah stands beside a slain bull, exhibiting the heart within his own exposed chest cavity; beside him there are vats of his own and the animal’s blood, and there is a backdrop of architectural ruins and primitive sculptures. McCoy’s sculptural groups are all of the same type: boats loosely based on the barques for the soul’s after life journey in the Egyptian Book of the Dead are pulled by lions based on those that pull the chariot of the Phrygo-Roman goddess Cybele in sculptures from Roman imperial times. The serpents of the Egyptian god Osiris and the Ibis of Thoth, the Egyptian patron of the arts and learning, are in attendance, lying about the deck or watching quietly from nearby.

These sculptural objects, while conveying an air of being timeless and archetypal, are also beautiful and intelligent contributions to the current obsession with myth and symbol in the arts. They have a charm as representations—the noble serenity of the couchant lions, the lively and graceful idleness of the serpents—but behind the charm lies a haunting reminder of the journey they have made, from the walls of ancient tombs through the synapses of a sleeping brain, to get before our eyes again.

Thomas McEvilley