by Tucker Neel
Published in ART LIES Magazine, Issue No. 64, Winter 2009
The abundance of “stuff” in Richard Hamilton’s iconic collage, Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? is what makes his critique of modern living so persistently compelling. With its lollipop-penis wielding muscleman, cramped acid-orange couch, bosom-pinching pinup, and a hefty canned ham on a skinny-legged coffee table, the erotic absurdity of the cluttered scene is both mesmerizing and a little overwhelming. More than a half-century later, Bari Ziperstein’s installation, Perk, hosted by See Line Gallery at The Pacific Design Center (PDC), updates Hamilton’s aesthetic and conceptual proposition through the use of an entirely different set of unexpected collage techniques. The result is a phenomenal site-specific investigation into the things we certainly don’t need, but can’t live without.
Ziperstein’s installation exists in a repurposed showroom at the PDC, a space taken over after its original inhabitants closed shop due to the current economic crisis. The room is punctuated by small ceramic sculptures perched atop bizarre pedestal conglomerations formed from conjoined and refigured household furniture. The display stations are constructions made from mashed-together coffee tables, bedposts, and mirrors, with odd protruding limbs and obstructing angles, effectively undermining any Modernist notion of form following function.
The ceramic works displayed on these wooden supports juxtapose incongruous, often sexual, forms in uproarious and hallucinatory ways. They often amplify the bawdiness, irreverence and seething horniness that lurks behind the accumulation of so many household knick knacks. For example, in Fruit Full the clamshells on a small bathing beauty figurine are switched out for gargantuan nautilus knockers, exaggerating the not-so-latent eroticism of the original ceramic mold.
Much like a photo collage composed from multiple negatives, Ziperstein’s ceramics are assembled into one entity using prefab molds, which are cast, strategically disassembled, reassembled, fired, and then glazed as one piece. This produces one-of-a kind works that successfully mimic the reproduced looks of their progenitors. They appear as a mutated collection of decorative tastes, a sort of Kunstkammer of tschotkes, that seem to cannibalize each another, dissolve into, and sprout from, their equally irregular display settings.
Carrying her exhibition throughout the boutique, Ziperstein’s Backstock covers the entire backroom, including the carpet, with a kaleidoscopic vinyl photo collage of an overstuffed chandelier stock room. A hand-made golden chandelier piñata dangles in the center of the room from a mass of cheesy plastic chains. The display, and its attendant visitors, is reflected in a floor to ceiling mirrored wall, creating a spectacular and overwhelming situation, inspiring wonderment, cell phone self-portraiture, and questions of just what constitutes inventory, surplus, and need. The work also alludes to the fine line between avid collector and compulsive hoarder.
Because Perk resides in the PDC, the most ostentatious temple to decadence and obsolescence West of Vegas, Ziperstein’s curious works effectively implicate the “high end” showrooms just down the hall, subsuming their stock and trade into her own critique. She inspires visitors to look at the goods sold at these neighboring boutiques as equally strange objects. In calling attention to this comparison, Ziperstein’s work effectively asks, “At what moment do the possessions we use to mark our identity and decorate our lives end up becoming a burden? When does our stuff consume us?”