JTF (just the facts): 13 mixed media collages, ranging in size from 12×9 inches to 17×14 inches; one archival pigment print measuring roughly 7×10 inches; one eight-minute, single-channel video; and one mixed-media installation. All works are dated 1996, except for the archival pigment print, which is dated this year. The collages are unique; the video is available in an edition of 5+2AP. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: These days, Alix Pearlstein, whose abstract, stylish, and often humorous videos explore social constructs and group behavior, employs professional theater actors. But in the 1990s, like fellow video artists Alex Bag and Cheryl Donegan, she performed in her own works. Reprised for this exhibition, her 1996 video installation “Interiors,” starring the artist, still resonates.
In the center of the gallery, a stylized, open-sided living room—complete with shag rug, modernistic clear plastic chair, and Plexiglas cube supporting a vase of real flowers—offers a comfortable environment for watching the video playing on a nearby monitor. Each of the video’s six scenes, which are set to cheery stock music for commercials, features the costumed artist playing different iconic figure from advertising or popular culture: a young mother, the Energizer Bunny, a white Persian cat, an Art Nouveau sculpture of a woman, a male artist, and the Femlin character that appears on Playboy’s Party Jokes page.
Individual objects, carried over from one scene to the next, link the video’s segments into a narrative loop. In one sequence, for example, the Energizer Bunny hops slowly into an open-sided Plexiglas cube and back out again, leaving her tail behind; in the next clip, the furry pom pom is being batted around by the cat. The pink target painting (resembling a feminized takeoff on a Kenneth Noland) on the wall behind the cat transforms into a real target for the Party Jokes girl (here equipped with gigantic prosthetic breasts and a handful of darts); the Party Jokes girl’s orange beach ball gets bounced by the artist; the artist’s crumpled-up drawing becomes a prop for a family portrait (don’t miss performance artist Mike Smith as dad and a young Lena Dunham as sis); and so on.
Photocollages hanging on the gallery walls depict figures and objects in simplified interiors. Six of the collages are studies for the video. The other seven were intended as proposals for future performances. Made up of images cut from design and lifestyle magazines, their perspectival views and cultural signifiers—a suburban family, an abstract painting; a decorative pot; a couple (Nancy and Henry Kissinger) dressed for a gala—refer both to the artist’s childhood memories (she’s the daughter of an architect and an interior decorator) and to gender and class divides.
These collages, as much stage designs as artworks, anticipate the undefined or minimal sets occupied by the actors in Pearlstein’s more recent videos. And, like her newer characters, the protagonists of “Interiors,” though they’ve been granted dimensionality and interiority, may have less free will than they think. Which, come to think of it, makes them a lot like us.
Collector’s POV: The video is priced at $15000, the collages are priced at $5500 each. Note: the six collages corresponding to the six scenes in the video are only available as a group. Pearlstein’s photographic work has little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.