brass, furniture, inkjet prints
But if the Crime is Beautiful... (Strangers to the Garden) responds to architect Adolf Loos' 1910 lecture Ornament and Crime, where he proposes that ornament is regressive, primitive and that, in (his) contemporary society, only criminals and deggenerates are decorated (this includes women). Loos' writings on architecture and functional art helped to define the principals of the Modern architecture and design movements. The influence of these movements permeates the contemporary built environment and therefore impacts our psychological and bodily relationship to space and objects.
Though Loos' philosophies have been critiqued for decades, we continue to live in environments where Modernist constructions remain, and Modernist design objects have morphed into coveted icons of status, aligning the owner with the taste level of an educated or elite class.
The iconic furniture in (Strangers to the Garden) represents this Modernist lineage. In this installation the decorative metal Kudzu leaves contrast the male dominated Modernist aesthetic and its utopian values of minimalism and functionality. The color white in this work is a symbol of restraint and intellectual control, a color historically used by oppressive entities, including the Fascists, as a symbol of superiority, purity, and control.
This work utilizes the political power of a craft vocabulary with an emphasis on decorative metalsmithing and gold. In recent history, craft has been theorized as a medium that has remained vital outside of the white, male, Euro-centricity of the contemporary art world. Crafts are often conceptualized as being in the realm of the other, domestic, social, corporeal, and female. *Kudzu is an invasive species. It overtakes native trees and brush, coating them with a new skin of lush green leaves. The Kudzu in this work serves as crafted decoration, interrupting the pure white furniture. These golden colored leaves play on the common association between the feminie, the body, decoration, and crafts.
The images house the bodies notably absent from the Modern seating. The juxtapositions between figures and objects, along with the groupings of images, point to a variety of historical, political, and social sources like religious iconography, and vernacular images of pleasure, power, and control. Inevitably the nude bodies in this work call upon constructions of identity and the complicated politics surrounding gender, race, and power as related to the systems underlying these environments.
*Lechner, Jenna. "One of Portland's Most Important Art Spaces Is Closing. Now What?" the Portland Mercury. Mar. 16, 2016. Web.
Lauren Kalman is a visual artist whose practice is invested in contemporary craft, video, photography and performance. Through her work she investigate beauty, adornment, body image, and the built environment. Raised in the Midwest, Kalman completed her MFA in Art and Technology from the Ohio State University and earned a BFA with a focus in Metals from Massachusetts College of Art.