New York

Sylvie Fleury

It takes a fine eye to appreciate the sleek, silver gleam of a Gucci stiletto putting pedal to the metal of a Plymouth Satellite, a fine eye to grasp the importance of makeup, shopping, and anything pink. It takes a discerning mind to know that Gucci gleam and pink makeup may be more interesting and important than so much of what anyone means when applying the word “art.” Sylvie Fleury has that mind, that eye. Her Gucci Satellite (all works 1997), a video monitor encased in a furry green moon, plays a tape of the artist from the knee down, wearing the Gucci shoe, and driving, driving, driving, shifting gears and driving, until at one point she slams on the brakes, sending sushi boxes and tissues tucked next to her on the seat hurtling into view. The video's blunt, unslick simplicity was funny and strangely elegant, but the pleasure of the drive was wrecked by the overweening, unnecessary structure housing the monitor.

Wreckage was a theme of Fleury's show, “Is Your Makeup Crashproof?,” yet two sculptures made of a crashed car split lengthwise and enameled bright pink, Skin Crime 1 (driver's side) and Skin Crime 2 (passenger's side), failed to fuel much visual or cognitive excitement. Most of what was on view, even the things that were at first glance provocative, couldn't match the complexity or fun of earlier works by Fleury they too easily recalled. Road Test, a tube of Clinique foundation run over, oozing pink unguent like blood onto the asphalt, did nothing to expand on Fleury's superb Sublimes (Chanel Eyeshadows), 1995, where the shrewd, ruthless chic of Chanel eyeshadow compacts was shattered to bits; a new silver spaceship made in conjunction with Sidney Stucki, UFO, was merely a variation on her more peculiar and forlorn First Spaceship on Venus, 1995, a sad soft rocket going limp. Even the assembly of shiny hubcaps adorning the wall of the She-Devils on Wheels Office/Headquarters suggested a little too directly Fleury's earlier take on scatter art and shininess, her accumulations of shopping bags.

This is disappointing only because Fleury can be so much fun and at the same time so smart. All artists have their pet materials and concerns, and small shifts over years can lead to revelations. In these new works, though, even in her fascination with muscle cars and the women (and men) who drive them, Fleury has cruised herself into a rut—maybe the rut of cool. What does the collision of feminine and masculine (rather unproblematically represented by makeup and machine) demonstrate about gender and culture that her previous fashion works did not? What is alien about being human, or of dressing up and putting on makeup? What consequences remain to placing readymades like shoes and hubcaps on view in a gallery? The gumption of caring more about a Gucci pump or sleek makeup packaging or a Mercedes hubcap than, say, a Jennifer Bartlett canvas thrills me—but I'm not sure what aesthetic resonance is gained by showing these things in a gallery rather than a shop. Is this a commentary on commerce and its collusion with gender? I'm not sure I care. But if anyone can answer those questions, or show some work that might lead one to try, Fleury might be the one. Here she just spun her wheels.

Bruce Hainley