NEW YORK—Four member Austrian art collective Gelitin‘s latest (and third solo) exhibition New York Golem at Greene Natali Gallery wraps up Friday (June 23 – August 4, 2017). The exhibition features 40-odd clay golems—the gestalt of the collective’s unusual efforts. In fact, images of the exhibition have been shared across various news and social media platforms drawing praise, criticism, innuendo and ire.
The exhibition’s title harkens back to Jewish folklore, Artnet writes. There, a golem is described as an inanimate amorphous creature molded out of clay that magically comes to life. There are several tales of how this occurs, but one such story explains the creatures’ animation as “the result of an “ecstatic” experience, initiated by the ritual act of shoving written letters into the golem’s mouth.”
The members of Gelitin sure shoved something into these golems. Text from the gallery’s press release offers us a hazy clue into the conceptual process of how these globs came to be.
Upon a plinth sleeps a ceramic form. It bears marks of its creation in passion, molded by gelatin’s genitals and sometimes through the behind…Come and touch their feeling.
Using their bodies as tools, as many artists do, members of the collective inserted themselves into the raw material, Artnet writes. Translation: Members of the all-male collective literally fucked the hell out the clay.
The four men can be seen in a video splashing around in vats of wet clay, penetrating the soft material, and painting each other’s bodies in a sort of ode to Yves Klein‘s corporeal “Anthropometries” series, which used models’ bodies as human paintbrushes.
With this video, instead of these creations miraculously manifesting in a gallery, the collective invites viewers to tap into some voyeuristic journey with them in their creative process. You won’t hear laughter or experience dramatic camera work, just sheer process. And unlike the early work of Chris Burden or that of Marina Abramović, this performance art-ish escapade leaves behind physical residue.
Each glob features tubular insertion orifices, pube-prints and visible leverage points. ArtForum adds that “one plaster-cast number resembles a misshapen torso sporting an erection like a classical herm. ”
Gelatin’s exhibition “New York Golem” takes consecrated insertion to an absurdly literal end, as ceramic totems shaped by the artists’ genitals are supported by an array of improvised pedestals.
The collective, known its playful antics creating sensationalist art events and “shambolic, often debauched installations” even ensured the plinths, themselves, made from what looks like anything the group could get their hands on in the studio, stand irreverent, a pantomime to traditional sculptural bases.
The podiums for these comically indexical lumps range from minimalist stands to an upturned bentwood chair stuck in a flowerpot.
We love this work, not only because it’s titular and we live vicariously through these men’s kinesthetic fun, but that it also challenges an entire institution of ceramic fine art that is still establishing itself.
About Gelitin: They met first in 1978 when they all attended a summer camp. They have been playing and working together. From 1993 they began exhibiting internationally.
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