New York

Vikky Alexander


Vikky Alexander’s recent wall-hung constructions are made of rectilinear arrangements of laminated strips in maple, birch, or pine wood-grain finish. Alexander creates each composition by joining together several L-shaped segments (or concentric rectangles) in an alternating pattern of contrasting finishes. The illusionistic effects resulting from her manipulations of proportion bring to mind Frank Stella’s “Black Paintings,” 1958–60, whose relations of compositional elements to center and framing edge they mimic; and the materials she uses echo Richard Artschwager’s statement from 1965 about using wood-grain Formica “to make a picture of a piece of wood.” Hovering in the background is a reminder of how culturally overdetermined, and hence “unnatural,” our notion of nature is. These works exploit the contradictions inherent in ready-made surfaces of simulated “natural” finishes, a point that is underscored by titles such as Modern Ornament and Industrial Iconography, both 1987. In this way, they appear to comment on the “Formica formalism” of current commodity-based art, using references to Stella and Artschwager as discursive elements. Alexander plays on the limits of conceptual form and simulation and on the disjunction imposed by the ultimate function of an art premised on an overuse of these notions. The circumscribed formal permutations of these “ornaments,” destined for the decoration of domestic settings, point to the endgame strategies motivating some of current art.

Kate Linker