From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you author Danica Willard Sachs‘ review of Geof Oppenheimer‘s Monsters at Ratio 3 in San Francisco. This article was originally published on June 18, 2014.
Geof Oppenheimer’s current solo exhibition at Ratio 3, Monsters, continues his investigation of the physical markers of violence. In previous exhibitions, such as Inside Us All There Is a Part That Would Like to Burn Down Our Own House from 2011, Oppenheimer’s focus has been on the convergence of violence with politics and nationalism. In Monsters, the artist takes an oblique approach, presenting bodies that are variously mutilated and degraded in order to question, in his words, “how the body is affected by the political systems we live under.”
With Monsters, Oppenheimer’s sculptures employ a litany of art-historical allusions. In the back corner of the main gallery stands The Embarrassing Statue (2014), a Duchampian amalgam of high and low objects combined into an abstract figure. Comprising a brass-plated armature rising from a marble slab resting on a stout pedestal, the piece also echoes Constantin Brancusi’s sleek brass forms and meticulous sculptural supports. With a hulking leaf blower strapped to its back—its hose protruding phallically forward—and a pair of Brooks Brothers slacks pooling around its ankles, the figure is a disjointed combination of gendered signifiers of artistic labor, as well as white- and blue-collar labor (expensive slacks versus gardening tools), literally caught with its pants down. The punch line here about there being something inherently humiliating about the performance of any sort of labor is less compelling than Oppenheimer’s experimentation with sculptural tropes to align a concern with artistic labor with manual labor.