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"i can see your underwear (swing)"
Kelly Lycan and Natalie Purschwitz, "i can see your underwear (swing)," 2011, plastic, wood 5'w x 2'd x 22'h. PHOTO: Lycan/Purschwitz
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"Mobile Molecular Mass"
Kelly Lycan and Natalie Purschwitz, Installation View, foreground, "Mobile Molecular Mass," 2011, plastic, styrofoam, wood, metal, 8'w x 4'd x 3'5" h. PHOTO: Lycan/Purschwitz.
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"Carnation and Cabbage"
Kelly Lycan and Natalie Purschwitz, "Carnation and Cabbage," 2011, plastic, 9'w x 7'd x 15' h. PHOTO: Lycan/Purschwitz.
NATALIE PURSCHWITZ & KELLY LYCAN, i can see your underwear
Centre A, Vancouver
Jan 15 – Feb 26, 2011
By Rachel Rosenfield Lafo
Pretty Uglies, the name of one of 16 installations in Natalie Purschwitz and Kelly Lycan’s exhibition at Centre A, could just have easily served as the name for the whole show. This is because the assemblages made from different types of plastic and other materials are both disarmingly pretty and pretty ugly, seducing and repelling in equal measure.
At the entrance, we are funneled through an arched corridor of heavy clear plastic. The arched shape echoes the architecture of the gallery while also resembling an arbor leading to a garden party. Yet instead of being decorated with flowers and vines, this Vestibule is adorned with colored and clear shopping bags scattered on top, the lights above them casting an alluring translucent glow. In this first installation, the artists introduce us to the themes of their show: the ubiquity of plastic in our lives, its permanence in and invasion of our environment, how it is used to simulate nature, and how we may be momentarily distracted from its negative properties by the appeal of its many colors, forms, and luminosity.
This exhibition is the first collaboration between Vancouver artists Purschwitz and Lycan, and originates from an invitation from Centre A’s curator Makiko Hara to create new work for the gallery. During a three-month residency there, the artists collected and purchased material from found and new sources, and then draped, wrapped, hung, knit, crocheted, cut, assembled, adhered, and mounted plastic into individual but related installations that address issues of collecting, recycling, functionality, decoration, excess, artificiality and commodification.
The works range from those displaying a Rococo overload of ornamentation to more simply presented sculptural objects. In the title piece, i can see your underwear, long, colorful, crocheted plastic ropes and strands hang from the ceiling, supporting a low swing (that can be used by visitors) covered in a decorative brocade fabric. Embedded in the ropes of plastic are three synthetic wigs, perhaps substitutes for the absent swinger. Echoing the playful tension depicted in Fragonard’s famous painting The Swing of 1766 where a young woman swings high as a male admirer looks up her skirt, the artists have created a fanciful, participatory sculpture that, at least momentarily, diverts our attention from more serious concerns.
In Mobile Molecular Mass, four irregular shapes of Styrofoam wrapped in black plastic sit on a platform with wheels. Resembling icebergs, the shapes are black and shiny, as if slick with oil from a spill. In another cautionary sculpture, On Golden Swamp, a fluorescent fixture placed on the floor shines through a piece of gold plastic, creating an eerie, ominous yellow glow suggestive of polluted waters. Despite the portentous tone of some of the works, there is also humor to be found. For example, the goofy-looking Carnation and Cabbage, has a flower formed from an orange cleaning muff and a tiny green “cabbage” made from a plastic, while One Drop Fountain is a bent and twisted hose that leans forlornly in a corner.
In this ambitious series of installations ranging from the ornate to the streamlined, Purschwitz and Lycan tease and scold us, enticing us with color, tactility, and frivolity while warning us that one day, our only knowledge of flowers, mountains, and water may be through their plastic surrogates.
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