Beverly Fishman "Future Natural"
Fishman’s work comments on medical data increasingly becoming a part of our identity and our growing reliance on medications to make us look, feel and perform better, but better than what and decided by whom?
BeveRly Fishman june 11 â€“ july 17, 2010 1 2 front and back Cover detail: dark kandyland, 2010 right: dark kandyland, 2010 84" x 30" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel far right: white kandyland, 2009 84" x 30" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel BeveRly Fishman june 11 â€“ july 17, 2010 GalleRy DirectoRs David Eichholtz & Richard Barger 130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 www.DavidRichardContemporary.com | info@DavidRichardContemporary.com BeveRly Fishman: 2 F utuRe NatuRal David Richard Contemporary is pleased to present FUTURE NATURAL, a solo exhibition of new work by Beverly Fishman. We are also pleased to present this full-color catalog with an essay written by Kathy Battista that places Fishman’s work in the context of feminist and postminimalist artists. Fishman’s artistic practice comments on how medical data and different forms of scientific representation have increasingly become a part of our identities. They have the ability to define and confine us in many ways, such as manicdepressive, menopausal, obese, diabetic or hypertensive. Medical data is not only used to describe our ills, or lack of wills, but also to prescribe and perpetuate our growing reliance on medications to make us look, feel and perform better. However, the question is better than what and decided by whom? FUTURE NATURAL consists of two bodies of work in which the physicality and materiality, in terms of scale and experience, are an important aspect of the exhibition. In the front gallery, the fourteen paintings consist of psychedelic optical patterns of layered medical data, silkscreened in fluorescent-colored acrylic and enamel paint onto polished stainless steel. The four larger-than-life narrow verticals are hung low to the ground allowing us to see our entire reflections like a mirror through the barrage of medical data. Do we like the reflection we see? Do we even know the person we see? The four horizontal paintings are diptychs or triptychs, approximately 56 to 74.5 inches in height and 84 inches in length, that enable the reflections of multiple viewers to be captured and comingled with the data. The six smaller pieces capture just the head of the viewer. In the gallery’s project room, Fishman has installed seventy pill-shaped wall sculptures in a dizzying display of what looks like a fist-full of pills that had been thrown into the room and stuck to the walls. These pill sculptures are made of resin and phosphorescent pigments that glow in the dark. One’s favorite crutch will be recognized and the glow in the dark feature only enhances the soothing and lulling effect. David Eichholtz and Richard Barger BeveRly Fishman at D avid Richard Contemporary by Kathy Battista You’ve got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the dolls.1 Oh is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel? Or just 20,000 people standing in a field. And I don’t quite understand just what this feeling is. But that’s okay ‘cause we’re all sorted out for E’s and wizz. And tell me when the spaceship lands ‘cause all this has just got to mean something.2 The post-war conception of the American used feminist methodology, as witnessed in female was largely tied to the domestic. writers as diverse as Stuart Hall, Hal Foster Household goods and conveniences, as ad- and Paul Gilroy. vertised by attractive women on television, were a sign of affluence, health and happi- If one considers pharmaceuticals as another ness. One’s status in society was largely tied consumer commodity, this strikes an espe- to what they owned, and women were the cially poignant note. How have women been ideal consumers. This paradigm of the per- targeted by the advertising industry? How fect housewife was deconstructed in feminist many pills do we consume daily or annually? ideology of the 1970s. Writers such as Betty How much faith do we have in medicine and Friedan, Germaine Greer and Kate Millett pharmacology as panaceas for our myriad analyzed the role of women with literature of ills? The post-war cliché of ‘mother’s little that became widely available and influential. helpers’ and the iconic ‘Valley of the Dolls’ Gender, previously considered a fixed entity, were nods to the increasing commodifica- became subject to scrutiny that resulted in tion of the pharmaceutical industry, and an expanded, pluralistic view of male and in particular its use by women. Drugs may female. Writers on both sides of the Atlantic, be seen as another consumer convenience, including Parveen Adams, Judith Butler and alongside the microwave, dishwasher or Laura Mulvey, increasingly viewed gender as vacuum cleaner. a conditioned construction of one’s identity, incorporating physical, political and ideo- The women’s movement also resulted in logical constructs. This burgeoning interest various effects on art practice: a rise in work in identity paved the way for tangential dis- related to themes such as the domestic, ciplines—cultural studies, postmodernism, women’s experience, and female biological postcolonial studies, and queer theory—that source imagery; an interest in exposing the 1. Jacqeline Susann, Valley of the Dolls, 1966. 2. Jarvis Cocker, ‘Sorted Out for E’s and wizz’ song lyrics, 1995. 3 4 inequality among gender; and perhaps most the constellation formed by the cluster of importantly, questions around the notion of forms mimics the view from a microscope. identity. How do we form or measure iden- This internalized view of the human body tity? To what extent is identity implicit or is does not refer to a specific person, but a it socialized through society? The first wave universal human condition. Fishman used of feminist artwork witnessed in the 1970s Xeroxes of human cell structures, and the US made manifest these questions. For titles suggest scientific, coded information. example Judy Chicago’s flower paintings The fear that every person feels regarding drew inspiration from the biological aspects what lurks within our body is made manifest of womanhood. here in the palette of the work. Saturated hues, including red, yellow, turquoise, purple A subsequent generation of artists, whose and black suggesting the visceral, dominate work consists of a combination of installa- this period of her work. In addition, the cel- tion, sculpture and painting, took a more lular conditions of replication and division, opaque approach to feminist inquiry. Mate- echoed in the use of the Xerox as medium, rial became secondary to concept. Beverly suggest the possibility for both deterioration Fishman’s work is situated within this tra- and renewal. This binary presents a cyclical jectory. While educated at Philadelphia and reading of birth and death as inevitable fates Yale, Fishman was inspired and supported by embodied in abstract terms. prominent artists concerned with the feminist movement including Ree Morton, Judy Indeed the tension between representation Pfaff, and Elizabeth Murray. Other artists and abstraction is an important element interested in the investigation of the human of Fishman’s work, and is reflected in the body including Lynda Benglis, Laurie Ander- obvious nod to the handspun in her prac- son, Francis Bacon and Eva Hesse, were also tice. Each formal constituent bears witness important references. to its making. In this sense one sees her work the tension betWeen RepResentation and abstRaction is an impoRtant element of Fishman’s WoRK… alongside artists like Hesse, Ross Bleckner and Philip Taafe. Hesse’s forms, at times anthropomorphic, were post-minimal abstract shapes; yet, the presence of the artist’s hand is found throughout her oeuvre. The same can be said of Bleckner or Taafe, who relied on pattern, but whose physical implication in the work is present in the surface of the painting. Fishman’s work finds its context in Fishman’s work has long exhibited an inter- these contemporaries who rejected the use est in the human body, for example, N.L.B.W. of sterile minimalist fabrication, but took #1–156, 1997–1998 and P.I.L.L. # 1–189, 1998. from their predecessors the interest in the These take the form of wall-based installa- repetition of forms and patterns. tions of individual elements comprised of photo-based collage, acrylic and resin on The oscillation between abstraction and fig- wood. The idiosyncratic shapes of each com- uration is seen in Fishman’s current series of ponent resemble cell-like structures while work. Her large-scale paintings, both vertical P.I.L.L. #1–189, 1998 and horizontal in format, have become more mechanistic in character: what appear to be dot matrixes, hard-edged stripes and waving 5 linear forms that become almost topographical in places. They find their inspiration in DNA and QR codes, as well as medical measuring devices including EKGs and EEGs. The circular forms are derived from pills, both pharmaceutical and recreational. The paintings, while done by hand, bear relationship to the computer, which is used to sample and morph patterns and scientific imagery that is sourced on the Internet. Take for example Fishman’s Dark Kandyland 2010, a large-scale acrylic and enamel painting on polished steel. Vertical in format, the painting may be considered in two distinct sections: the top half, in which circular, ovoid and other pill-shaped forms float atop a pattern composed of black dots on the unpainted polished stainless steel background. Here the pills seem to levitate and hover above the pattern. The lower segment of the painting, with a composition of horizontal and vertical lines, as well as what looks like an electrocardiograph and genetic code, contrasts segments. Similar to horizon lines, these with the circular forms above. One might paintings are split into thirds or halves and describe the painting in terms of Platonic suggest landscapes of graphic information. order, with the mind existing literally above Here the pills spill into the lower section, the bodily. The top half also represents the while barcodes and DNA helixes compete ‘cause’ and the bottom the effect: it’s the with stripes and patterns to delirious effects. pills, prescribed or otherwise, that would The artist is masterful in her ability to strike a make the heart race or the body relax. And delicate balance between the webs of lines, the straight lines call to mind the medical networks of color and various shapes and term of ‘flatlining’ when a patient is ebbing layers. At times the paintings resemble the away from life. Thus, Fishman’s metonymic innards of a computer, which represents the painting embodies this notion of cause and primary medium through which we view the effect in its dichotomy. body today, for example with EKG patterns, sound waves, and genetic codes. While Fish- Horizontal diptych and tripartite works man’s paintings give the impression of ‘high such as Dividose: Flour r.b.b.y, (2009), Sys- technology’ with an almost futuristic sheen tem Overload (2009-2010) and Barcode. deriving from the polished steel, upon closer helix.eeg (2010) also divide into discrete inspection one can see the marks of the 6 artist’s hand. Fishman wants the viewer to of forms and patterns, suggest so much see the imperfections, which may be read movement that they take on a hallucinatory as a reflection of the human condition. This nature. For example the horizontal diptych harks back to the idea of identity, with each Untitled, (Kandyland Series), 2010 is com- painting symbolic of a composite of individu- prised of bright pinks, orange, citrus green als rather than a mechanized template. How- and magenta. These colors, which may be ever, the idea of the construction of identity read as reflecting the use of neon in signage, through medical, scientific and pharmaceu- suggest the urban condition. City living tical terms, may be read as a continuation of demands two different lives, one’s daytime the feminist interest in the formation of self, and nighttime personas, the latter of which both in physical and psychological terms. may require recreational drugs to sustain. Fishman’s inteRest in pills…is linKed to…the psycholoGical and physical effects RendeRed by these small but omnipotent objects. The scale of these new paintings, which are The use of drugs in art is not a new concept. slightly larger than life-sized, is an important There is an entire literature based on opiate aspect of the work. At eighty- four inches experiences and one need only think of Dali high, in the vertical works—Acid Kandyland or 1960s psychedelia to understand how #1 and #2 (2010), White Kandyland (2009), drugs have been used to foster the creative and Dark Kandyland (2010)—the viewer can impulse. In more recent years Fred Toma- partially see her reflection in the works due selli’s paintings contain pills and marijuana to the highly polished stainless steel. The leaves and Damien Hirst’s medicine cabi- affect varies according to each work, as the nets use pills as found objects. Tomaselli’s denser compositions render just a shadow layering of substances, both legal and ille- of the viewer while looser compositions gal, within layers of resin, uses the actual ob- result in a sharper image. They do not serve jects themselves to create networks. Hirst’s as mirrors, rather like vestiges of the viewer pharmaceuticals, while also concerned with projected on to the painting, reflecting the the consumer driven drug industry, retain a nebulous identity of the pills and charts. sterile, distant feeling. Fishman’s interest in Thus, the artist implicates us all within her pills, in contrast to her colleagues above, is work, much like Op Art’s dizzying effects. linked to how we measure identity, to the The unsettling experience of viewing a state of our minds and bodies, and to the Bridget Riley or Victor Vasarely comes to psychological and physical effects rendered mind here. by these small but omnipotent objects. She embraces pharmaceuticals as a form of rep- The palette of this new body of work draws resentation, both of the body and mind, as largely upon day-glo and fluorescent col- well as our urban, over programmed lives. ors. This produces several effects. First, Despite the promise that modern medicine the paintings are never static. The colors, holds, we are all still mortal beings, frustrat- combined with the dynamic juxtaposition ed, unable to sleep, anxious or unwell. Another difference between Fishman and The pill series, while sculptural, are con- those artists referenced above is the im- sistent with Fishman’s earlier work. They portance of the handcraft in her work. This employ modernist tactics in that although is perhaps most evident in another body the shapes of the pills are derived from the of work presented in ‘Future Natural’. This actual items found in the world, each pill is series consists of smaller wall-based sculp- individual, hand cast from a wooden mold. tures that use phosphorescent pigment to No two are identical as Fishman varies make them glow in the dark. The pills ref- them by using different colors, both on the erenced here, as in the paintings described surface and the phosphorescent pigment above, are derived from actual drugs. Phar- underneath, which makes them glow. As you maceuticals such as Valium®, Klonopin®, encounter the pills the viewer can see small Haldol® and Fosamax® sit alongside vari- inconsistencies and marks from the casting ous incarnations of the recreational Ecstasy. process. The artist relishes in these small The latter has famously taken various forms, anomalies, which subvert the mechanical including iconic imprints such as the heart, processes by which real pharmaceuticals skull, smiley face, and now even Homer are made. The pills are also modular. While Simpson. The irony in Fishman’s work is that one can stand alone as a sculptural work, the pills begin to blur together. For example, they can also be grouped in the same way the moose imprinted on a pill for diabetes that her earlier cellular installations or the (Prandin®) could easily be read as an Ecsta- latest polished steel paintings can work sy tablet. Perhaps the icon most indicative together in dialogue. of this is the Superman logo—an ‘S’ in an upside down triangle—which has appeared When seen as a holistic entity ‘Future Natu- on both Ecstasy and Parkinson’s medication ral’ reflects several of Fishman’s abiding with very little difference in rendering. Here themes. Her interest in the history of paint- Fishman’s point is well taken—whatever ing and sculpture as fetishized objects is one’s poison is, medical or recreational—the seen in the materials and palettes of the desired effects are the same and their mar- paintings as well as the pills. They call to keting is frighteningly similar. mind references as diverse as Richter’s mirror paintings and early Warhol drawings. The pills may be read as a critique of the se- The artist’s interest in science, which is duction, especially of women, of advertising always concerned with reimaging our body in today’s culture. Here both medical and through the development of new technol- homemade science seduces the consumer. ogy, as a seductive force in all our lives, re- One takes a pill, which is in its original solid lates to the theme of how we consume and state. This then dissolves and becomes are consumed by advertising. And finally, vaporous. The latter state is reflected in the Fishman’s early training under feminist and glowing backgrounds. Here again Fishman postminimalist artists is reflected in this cur- invokes signage and the language of graphic rent work. How is one’s identity, in particular design in her work. female identity, transposed and interpreted through science? And how is science in turn influencing or changing our identity? The future seems anything but natural here. 7 untitled (Kandyland series), 2010 56 3/4" x 84" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 8 9 detail: Acid Kandyland #2, 2010 84" x 26" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 10 Acid Kandyland #1, 2010 Acid Kandyland #2, 2010 84" x 26" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 84" x 26" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 11 System overload, 2010 58 3/4" x 84" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 12 13 13 Dividose: flour r.b.b.y, 2009 56 3/4" x 84" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 14 Barcode.helix.eeg, 2010 74 1/2" x 84" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 15 16 Untitled (Kandyland Series 2), 2010 Untitled (Kandyland Series 3), 2010 26" x 18" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 26" x 18" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel Untitled (Kandyland Series 1), 2009 and Untitled (Kandyland Series Pink), 2009 and Untitled (Kandyland Series Green), 2009 Untitled (Kandyland Series 1), 2010 26" x 18" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 26" x 18" Acrylic and enamel on polished stainless steel 17 Untitled (Pharmako Series 7, 32, 14, 17, 19, 10, 1, 15, 30, 24, 23, 21, 25, 28, 3, 8, 4, 26), 2009-2010 (5" x 10" x 1.5" to 9" x 9" x 3") Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, Various sizes, Installation view 18 19 20 Untitled (Pharmako Series 9), 2010 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 13), 2009 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 2), 2010 Untitled (Pharmako Series 12), 2010 Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, In the light In the light Untitled (Pharmako Series 9), 2010 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 13), 2009 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 2), 2010 Untitled (Pharmako Series 12), 2010 Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, Glowing in the dark Glowing in the dark 21 22 Untitled (Pharmako Series 29), 2010 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 5), 2010 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 20), 2010 Untitled (Pharmako Series 6), 2010 Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, Glowing in the dark Glowing in the dark Untitled (Pharmako Series 29), 2010 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 5), 2010 and Untitled (Pharmako Series 20), 2010 Untitled (Pharmako Series 6), 2010 Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, Hand poured resin and phosphorescent pigment, In the light In the light 23 B eveRly Fishman 24 Beverly Fishman received her BFA from the Award (2003), National Endowment for the Philadelphia College of Art in 1977, and her Arts Fellowship Grant (1989), Artist Space Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in Grant (1986/1990), and two Ford Founda- 1980. She subsequently taught at the Col- tion Grants (1979). lege of New Rochelle, New York, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Cranbrook Her work has been reviewed and profiled Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michi- in numerous art magazines, newspapers, gan, where she has been Artist-in-Residence and scholarly publications, the most recent and Head of Painting since 1992. of which include the Wall Street Journal Since 2000, Fishman has had nearly two- Maria Stafford’s Echo Objects: The Cognitive dozen one-person exhibitions at galleries History of Images (2007), and Joe Houston (2009), Art in America (2008), Barbara in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Thessa- and Dave Hickey’s Optic Nerve: Perceptual loniki, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Art of the 1960s (2007). Her work has also been included in many thematic exhibitions addressing abstraction, Her work may be found in many public col- technology, medicine, and the body. Recent lections including the Toledo Art Museum, exhibitions include Infinitesimal Eternity: the Miami Art Museum, the Columbus Muse- Making Images in the Face of Spectacle, um of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, the Stam- Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT; Op Art: ford Museum and Nature Center, Cranbrook Then and Now at the Columbus Museum in Art Museum, the Kresge Art Museum, Maxine Ohio; and Dreaming of a More Better Future and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art, and at the Cleveland Art Institute Gallery. the United Nations Embassy in Istanbul. She is also included in the corporate collections Ms. Fishman has been awarded numer- of Hallmark, Inc., the Progressive Art Col- ous honors including a Hassam, Speicher, lection, Compuware, UBS Financial Services Betts, and Symons Purchase Award from Inc., Daimler-Chrysler Corporation, Cantor the American Academy of Arts and Let- Fitzgerald, and Prudential Life Insurance, ters (2010), Guggenheim Fellowship Award among others. (2005), Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Photo credits: Shell Hensleigh: paintings Richard Barger: resin sculptures Travis Roozee: portrait of Beverly Fishman 25 ISBN 978-0-9827872-0-5 Price $10.00 2626 130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284 www.DavidRichardContemporary.com | info@DavidRichardContemporary.com