New York

Gotscho

Nicole Klagsbrun

As the installation created by French artist Gotscho pointed out, weddings are strict rituals governed by rigid conventions. Staging is a large part of the affair, and Gotscho, who has a background in theater, has “staged” his Wedding (all works 1993) accordingly. Neatly paired rows of tuxedos and wedding gowns were hung on opposite walls, presenting a range of these requisite, constraining costumes.

All of this rigidity obviously has something to do with the fact that weddings are society’s way of recognizing sexual union. Gotscho’s work stressed the violence below the social surface: “union” here was depicted as a twisted, tortured intertwining of bride-and-groom wear. Diaphanous white wedding gowns, meant to evoke innocence and purity, engulfed the grooms’ suits, which hung like strangled corpses amid the folds of fabric. One sheer dressing gown opened at the throat to release (or swallow?) a black tuxedo jacket—or perhaps the gown was giving cesarean birth to its lover, for Gotscho often flirts with the surreal. (Reiterating the birth theme, and reminding viewers of what all this matrimonial pomp is leading to, a delicate Louis XVI chair whose pink-upholstered seat had ballooned like a pregnant belly stood nearby.) Wedding 3, a voluminous gown wrapped around a twisted white wedding suit, recalled the scene in D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers where a frightened, drowning woman pulls her lover down with her in a fatal embrace.

Gotscho typically works with clothing and furniture, costumes and settings—props that delimit the stage of human action. Yet in his scenarios, the props seem to come alive and entrap the actors. In an earlier piece, the artist stitched a bad-boy black leather jacket to a bar stool: like Narcissus and other figures from Greek mythology, Gotscho’s missing persons get caught in their own excesses, frozen in their defining roles. Widower 1, a black Christian Lacroix gown wrapped around a bulbous, crystal vase, suggested an overfed society matron, bulging cleavage squeezed into yards of ruffles and stuck up on a shelf like the useless ornaments of her own household. In Baldachin, two box springs lay back to back, touching only at the points of their two spindly legs. The void between them, like the empty space between the walls of gowns in Gotscho’s installation, evoked the emptiness of a marriage between two disconnected people.

Gotscho’s works are always highly polished, exquisitely composed, extraordinarily beautiful, and frightfully cold. Such extreme attention to surface, to finish, to impeccable form (in attire, in manners, in behavior), the artist implies, drains the life out of the living, and turns human beings into the props of some macabre theater.

Lois Nesbitt