New York

Anne Rochette

Julian Pretto / Berland Hall Gallery

In her show titled “Pains and Pleasures,” Anne Rochette presents works in which graphic and sculptural elements coexist in an uneasy tension. Though each arrangement addresses pressing social and political issues, she does not seem to subscribe to any of the dominant models of political art making. Rochette does not investigate the causes of homelessness, war, and terrorism, or even propose solutions to these problems, rather, she pinpoints and magnifies the way social and political circumstances, to which we often consider ourselves immune, affect us at the level of our bodies.

Rochette’s is a discourse of the victim, the late-20th-century subject who suffers the effects of political indifference. In No Home (all works 1989), six prone figures lie atop a wooden structure fitted with compartments containing geometric wooden shapes that resemble small buildings. By juxtaposing the exposed figures with these paradoxically uninhabitable structures, Rochette successfully reduces the complex social, political, and economic situation of homelessness to its lowest common denominator—its effect on the body. A nearly amorphous shape placed beside the wooden structure suggests a body (perhaps a corpse) wrapped in blankets. The anonymity of Rochette’s faceless figures is chilling; she seems to invite us to imagine ourselves in these abject circumstances.

In Internal and External Affairs, a print of a collapsed woman surrounded by a crowd during a riot in El Salvador is presented with two sculptural variations on the woman’s fallen body. Rochette has first cast a fragment of the woman’s torso in grey, and then made a negative cast of it in a fleshy-pink color suggesting a gradual process of excoriation which underscores the victim’s vulnerability. Internal and External Affairs makes the effects of abstract politics palpable by translating them into bodily reality.

Fear, a work based on a Pan Am hijacking, deals with international terrorism. Drawings of the hijackers’ murder of a U.S. military officer, focusing on the moment the victim’s body was dropped from the plane, are presented on a small table. The same silhouette is carved repeatedly onto a pair of cast metal legs, which stand facing two spheres on the floor nearby. Fear is conveyed by the heavy, frozen legs permanently embossed with the image of terrorism. In both her choice of subject matter and her handling of materials Rochette has again presented the body as the ultimate political battleground.

If the above-mentioned works are this show’s “pains,” then one would expect Domestic Gift to introduce its “pleasures.” A tablecloth printed with images of fruit bears two pairs of open-palmed cast metal hands. In each pair one hand cradles the other. Juxtaposed with three cooking pots, the hands suggest domestic labor. Perhaps Rochette is suggesting that the home is also a place for physical pain. Here the “gift” (open hands) might be interpreted as a “sacrifice” (severed hands).

Rochette’s work reaffirms the body, and in this she counters the “implosive” logic that would render it obsolete. For her, the body is all that is left, a remainder that cannot be divided out of any political equation and a final site for radicalism.

Jenifer P. Borum