Jack the Pelican Presents
With titles like a quaint interior decoration magazine, “Passionate Patronage,” “Mindfully Minimal,” and “Armed with Art,” it is clear that Sheri Warshauer’s paintings are patronizing the lifestyle she documents. In her show Contemporary-ish Collect-icons, a series of paintings depicting interiors of modern art collectors’ showroom houses draws the viewer into the irresistible voyeuristic pleasure of peeking inside someone’s private living space. And not just anyone, but those who have the means to express their exemplary taste and who have designed their homes specifically to make you aware of it.
The paintings are also enticing on more formal levels. Warshauer’s cool detached representations of the interiors as flat color shapes recede back in space to create an exaggerated depth. Pollocks, Lichtensteins, and various other larger than life art works within the paintings become model scale, simplified but recognizable. This effect is heightened by the equal attention and weight given to the paintings, sculptures, and books on the coffee tables and even the walls. There is also incredible variety in this series of 16 works, mostly due to Warshauer’s playful compositions. In some pieces she depicts the room in perfectly grandiose symmetry, while in others, half a room is cropped out, disrupting the pretension of the decor. This makes viewing the paintings from one to the next dynamic, replicating the journey through an architectural space.
What ties the show together is a life-size image of a collector’s bookshelf. Striking the viewer at first as a color grid, the horizontal and vertical axis reveal themselves as shelves holding a collection of leaning books with titles economically dispersed on their spines. Here Warshauer distills the familiar experience of perusing someone’s book collection in search of your own verifiable connoisseurship. In this act of taste assessment, the collection is reduced to titles and ultimately status symbols that may have never been read, but act as icons of themselves. “Jeff Koons,” “Modern Architect,” “Philip Johnson,” and a few that just say “Art” are signifiers of the person and home this collection belongs to. Just like the titles of this book collection, the artworks in the collectors’ homes act as icons, not being read, but just on display for the purpose of being recognized.
It is significant that it is not a photographer, but a painter who is representing the situation where modern art becomes a trophy. These paintings can be seen as a meditation of an artist coming to terms with the inevitable resting place of her own creative output and the fact that such beautiful paintings can be made as a rumination on the death of themselves is a good sign.