Other Criteria, London
19th September-23rd October 2012
Other Criteria is doing a brisk trade in water pipes to the sybarites of New Bond Street, albeit ones made of Murano glass and silver leaf, part of a new body of work by Mat Collishaw. Modelled on heat-warped plastic bottles, they seem to sway in the window, with only their phallic spouts to give them equilibrium. The ‘Inner City Inhalers’ bear comparison with Keith Coventry’s ‘Crack City’ series, bronze casts of crack pipes after Morandi. Collishaw’s bespoke bongs allude to Duchamp, and are more generically hedonistic, their bright hues reminiscent of souvenir coke glasses.
Collishaw’s work has been underpinned by a mordant wit since the seminal ‘Bullet Hole’ (1988). A similar vein runs through the ‘Last Meal on Death Row’ photographs, chosen on the perpetrators’ notoriety in lieu of gourmet credentials. Collishaw’s take on this well worn subject is to shoot them as sombre still-lifes, composed and lit to resemble Dutch masters’ paintings, replete with attendant notions of vanitas. There’s grim fun to be had spotting which ones jar with the conceit. A seafood platter and a cornucopia of fruit are coherent with the genre’s subjects; others give pause: one serial killer ordered Cheez Doodles and a Coke.
The last supper of Gary Gilmore (subject of Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Executioner’s Song (1979)) is a typical spread – steak sandwich, baked potato, hardboiled eggs, rounded off by black coffee and shots of Jack Daniels – ample fortification for a journey across the Styx. The images recall Chardin in their undemonstrative qualities, but where his placid surfaces masked a rapt fascination with the inner life of objects, these are only skin deep: the pebbled goats parchment they are printed on is faintly repellent, while their air of insouciance vexes rather than intrigues.
It’s the third set of works on display that repays close attention. Primed to expect shock, the disarrayed specimens of the ‘Insecticide’ series might initially be presumed the victims of insectocuters. Yet their origins are more quotidian – just dead moths found around the house, sandwiched between glass. There are shades of Ernst’s collages or Gustave Dore in the muslin textures and quavering lines of the resulting photogravure etchings, as well as intimations that everyday life is often the biggest mystery of all.