expression, discovery, and invention
by Douglas Messerli
Allegra Pesenti, curator “Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now” / Hammer Museum, February 7 – May 31, 2015, I saw the show with Pablo on February 17, 2015.
Since the Surrealists, however, it appears from this show that rubbings have moved increasingly in the direction of revealing nature, of re-representing the world rather than even an attempt of discovering another reality in it. If, indeed, the floor and wall rubbings of artists such as Sam Falls, whose “Studio Floor” of 2012 suggests a series of phantasms hidden in the ordinary floor of an art studio, there remain precisely things of the imagination—representing the way we might look deeply, on a daily basis, into the patterns of the linoleum of our bathroom and kitchen floors, delighting in their momentary transformations into intimate scenes, yet knowing that, in another wink, they will once again become unrecognizable to us, other works such as South Korean Do Ho Suh’s spectacular “Rubbing/Loving: Metal Jacket” of 2014 truly transform hundreds of individual rubbings of dog tags into a truly unrecognizable landscape that is based less on “rediscovery” than upon “rearrangement” and “re-contextualizing” the thing itself.
Similarly impressive is Romanian artist Geta Brătescu’s “Worker’s Hand,” which transforms the hands of an ordinary worker into a kind of abstract portrait of the subject. Nonetheless, we recognize the signature of the raised imprint, and the work is never quite able—or desires to—release its hold on the “real.”
Indeed, works such as Roy Lichtenstein’s “Foot Medication” of 1962 might be nearly impossible to distinguish from his paintings and drawings. Indeed it is difficult in such a work to even determine how it was achieved as a work of frottage.
Los Angeles, February 20, 2015