Cady Noland

Massimo De Carlo | Milan/Belgioioso

Cady Noland has literally filled the gallery––like a cluttered garage or warehouse––with her complex assemblages of miscellaneous found objects, commodities, ready-mades, and what might be described as picnic or party litter. Excess and confusion acquire an expressivity within the work’s structure. The space is activated by Noland’s 21 works; it is quite difficult to distinguish where one work ends and another begins. What at first appears as sets of amalgamations of random clutter becomes, upon closer observation, the result of a rigorous selection process. Noland’s objects divide themselves into like groups grounded within the fragmented narrative structures she is creating. Here the static use of horse paraphernalia, automobile parts and accessories, motorcycle helmets, handcuffs, walkers, and canes seems to speak of the mobility these objects connoted in their “functional” life and of the absence of that mobility in their current status as art. Barbecues, potato chips, squashed hamburger buns, and beer cans––“you are what you eat”––new mailboxes, American flags, and images of Patricia Hearst and Lee Harvey Oswald seem to initiate a discourse on vacant or anonymous identity. Noland also seems to limit her use of color to black, silver, and red, but here brown also appears, almost anonymously, in the saddles. Blue lies almost exclusively in the background of the various American flags.

Around the perimeter of the gallery, propped and leaning against the walls, or attached to the walls by large nails, is a series of large, mirrorlike polished aluminum “pages” that call to mind lithographers’ plates used in the reproduction of images. On their surfaces Noland has silk-screened in black ink various photographic images from the life of Patricia Hearst as represented in the media. These works, such as Cult Trip, Pipe Dream, and Patty Hunting, (all works, 1989), reproduce newspaper-clipping-like images of Patricia Hearst as a cheerleader, as a terrorist, or hunting with her boyfriend. They are often followed by a brief, captionlike text which attempts to explain and contextualize the image. The arrangement of images and disjunction between picture, text, and truth only furthers the overall sense of chaos.

Two aluminum cutouts of larger-than-life silk-screened images function as the show’s focal points, outlining a third work (Frame Device) and seeming to represent the only interactive human presence. In one of these, Tanya as a Bandit, Noland has reproduced the well-known image of Patricia Hearst holding a machine gun before a Symbionese Liberation Army insignia. In the other, Oozewald, she has placed perfectly round, bulletlike holes in a grainy reproduction of the famous image of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot. Oswald, the American antihero, has two holes for his mouth––one is filled by an American flag, as if it were representing a patriotic language. Frame Device, a rinklike space constructed from portable metal barricades with piles of aluminum walkers leaning against each of the corners, literally obstructs the entrance to the gallery. The rinklike form connotes competitive activity, while the barricades block or direct movement. These three pieces create a bleak image of nonexistent mobility and violently altered meaning.

The largest of the 21 works shown here, Deep Social Space, consists of two parallel sets of metal barricades, one somewhat taller than the other, from which Noland has hung various chains, wire baskets, American flags, belts, chrome, and wooden loops. Within the space occupied by this work there are also two carts, which support a mailbox and a bowl of potato chips, a pile of chrome poles, and a brand new barbecue turned upside down. Attached to the handle of one cart are a set of handcuffs, a wire basket filled with beer cans, and a dirty, plastic “Fast Freeze Shelf” topped with beaten-up hamburger rolls, among the other objects. Like the American flag in Oswald’s mouth, the upside-down barbecue, hamburger rolls, and empty beer cans negate an actual picnic and present a distorted by-product––some confused metamorphosis where art turns reality into its opposite.

The chaos and haphazardness that Noland presents contain a sense of aftermath. Her notion of consequence is literally caged and strapped within the wire baskets––immobilized, paralyzed, or handcuffed to the disorienting chaos. Noland presents us with the residue of function, the residue of meaning.

Anthony Lannacci