New York

Joe Scanlan

Joe Scanlan’s exhibit “Invention” dealt with the act of consumption—not only getting and spending but their secret partners, compulsion and decay. The artist has long been interested in design and fabrication, but here he went beyond such production-end concerns to the crux of the issue: what “making” does to “wanting.” Scanlan has an admirable command of how material substance shapes immaterial sense, how matter molds essence. His “Invention” put things like flowers, snowflakes, tears—even our own faces in the mirror—up for sale in a beautifully crafted boutique of the faux ephemeral.

Custom, 1998, is a coffin, made from Tasmanian blackwood in collaboration with a master cabinetmaker. An unembellished polygon, it sat isolated on the floor with its lid leaning against a wall, propped on shims of blue polystyrene, a balance of showroom bravado and workshop nonchalance. Urging attention to

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