Michael Corris

Genovese Gallery

Michael Corris has created a series of provocative pieces here that suggest a departure from his recent layered images of bar graphs. The focal piece of this show, entitled “Reading by Candlelight,” was Marxism and Problems of Linguistics, 1989. The work consists of 11 bundles of shingles that serve as the base for a silver candelabra and a copy of a text by Stalin; the latter is embedded in colored wax and mounted on a wood block. The paraffin which covers the pamphlet is joined with strings that serve as wicks and transform the object into a votive candle. The wood shingles act as both platform and pyre. Various treatises on cultural imperialism are also embedded in paraffin and beeswax in the other pieces here. These pamphlets are subversive instruments which, as candles, become objects of contemplation and enlightenment.

The Ideal Library, 1989, combines five pamphlets mounted on wood blocks and covered in variously colored layers of translucent paraffin, encaustic, and beeswax. The book-candles are installed symmetrically at eye level, forming a minimalist progression of geometric object-images. The group of five pamphlets—one each by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Zedong—which represent the pantheon of Communist economic and political dogma, are obfuscated in varying degrees by the pigment and wax that covers them. The wax allows the print from the first few pages of each pamphlet to be made visible. Therefore, the portraits of the theorists themselves are juxtaposed with the title pages. The result is an ambiguity of language and art.

Corris’ most successful piece is Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism and Coke, 1989. It is an outgrowth of Corris’ well-known graphic installations and displacements. The first part of the title comes from a treatise by Lenin on the effects of competition between industrial nations. The Lenin manifesto is preserved in yellow wax and combined with four framed posters for Coca-Cola and other junk food, placed in a linear progression. These elements are hung on a black and white photographic blow-up of cropped versions of the Coke posters and book. The photograph has been scanned by a laser, creating formal geometric subtexts for this multipaneled installation. Corris’ iconoclasm is here balanced with a studied joining of primary forms, Pop, and polemics.

Francine A. Koslow